Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poverty: Its About Choice

Lindsay Clinton, of Beyond Profit is hosting (on Social Edge) a provocative discussion titled "what's wrong with being poor?" She asks "what if we are really just grafting our own notions about haves and have nots and quality of life based on our own limited experience?" The problem of poverty is multifaceted and the discussion thread makes for interesting reading (do check) but after a while I found my head spinning.

The outcome of a discussion should lead to action. So for me the first action is simplification: Its about choice.

Do you know anyone who chooses to live in extreme poverty (unfed, unclothed, unloved etc..)? I do. I met them last year travelling in the Himalayas. They are called rishis, munis, saints whatever. Wise men and women who have reduced their physical needs without compromising their mental prowess and in some cases enhancing it even. Its their choice. It is renunciation though their lifestyle would meet traditional definitions of poverty.

Do you know any child who chooses to live in extreme poverty (unfed, unclothed, uneducated)? I don't. Having grown up in India, surrounded by the poor, I cannot imagine a child choosing hunger over a full belly.

Poverty is no different than other forms of injustice- be it equal opportunity for women, minorities, religion etc. And just like them, it is unnecessary - if we only have the will.

Poverty is not a choice. If it is, I am fine with it. Lets not over-think the issue - this discussion reminds me of the debate in the seventies about working moms versus career moms - what's better?

Its about choice. and society benefits when its people have choices.

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