I am a dreamer myself. A future where the only thing we lack is lack itself sounds absolutely amazing to me.
Yet, I am also a realist and think that a future 100% free of poverty isn’t likely without some drastic changes. When our resident social media genius asked my opinion of a recent article saying that, “New study shows world poverty could be eradicated in 20 years” I was left with no recourse but to write my own post on the matter.
First of all, bravo to the the men and women that have spent the time & energy working on this research. They were willing to take a deeper look at the multiple factors that lead or lag impoverished communities. A view of multidimensional poverty measures is a huge leap in the right direction. For this you have my gratitude. I just want to push the envelope a bit further with a simple question. What is poverty?
At CloudFactory, addressing poverty in the communities where we work is an essential reason for our very existence. Nepal is our home. Coincidentally it was named as a potential place that could be free of poverty in 20 years. As things stand now, I would venture to say that is unrealistic. Power outages that last 20 hours a day, a government without formal documents to legitimize its existence, ethnic feuds that boil under the surface, and countless other factors can be cited for this claim. Yet we are bold enough to say that if we have our way, the factors mentioned in this article can and will be addressed in less than 20 years.
Most would define poverty in terms of a lack of financial or material resources. Formal definitions
would call it a deficiency of elements or resources that are needed or desired. This is an error similar to defining an elephant as a creature with large ears. It only captures one component of all that we need to know to fully understand what an elephant is like. Any complex topic must be examined in its entirety before one can fully understand how it may affect them or they may affect it. It is true that those that help others are more fulfilled and see good things happen. Showing kindness to the poor is important but how we show kindness can greatly impact the results of our kindness.
Relationships play a vital role in how poverty is manifested in the world around us. In order to help people in poverty we need to have a framework which understands that poverty is rooted in the effects of brokenness in four foundational areas: relationship with self, others, creation, and the creator. When defined in this way, we are all poor. No one experiences the fullness that is possible for each of these relationships.
For the economically poor, these broken relationships often include shame, a false identity, social isolation, and a lack of vocation that contributes to a lack of income. For the economically rich, these broken relationships manifest themselves in pride, selfishness, workaholic tendencies, materialism, etc. that lead to its own list of individual and social ills. Unfortunately, when the economically rich interact with the economically poor, they tend to do so in such a way that exacerbates the shame of the economically poor feel and deepen the relational poverty of the economically rich.
It's been said that poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that rob us of life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of peace in all its meanings. Central to poverty alleviation is embracing our own mutual brokenness so that we can truly help others without hurting them and ourselves. Can THAT poverty be wiped out in 20 years, 10 years, 1 year? Yes. The problem I see is not everyone wants to walk that road.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.
Evan Kubicek, VP Impact @EvanKubicek