Why don’t we pull the brakes on the “Poverty Eradication” train and let all conductors announce once and for all, “The Ride Is Over!”
My choices of words are not metaphoric. Believers in the myth of poverty reduction or poverty elimination must wake up to the fact that it is one perennial joy ride for some, and nightmare for others. One heck of a joy ride it is for banks, administrators, media moguls, shipping agents, transportation companies, and all those who eat first from gold-laden tables before the poor and unfortunate can fetch their crumbs.
Think about this: before one dollar filters down to an impoverished child or person, all those high-end and supposedly well-intentioned sharks, alligators, lions and similar corporate predators have to munch first before poor recipients get theirs. Since predators are not blessed with small appetites, by the time they get their fill, if one is to paint a true picture of the process, we are delivering leaking cups of water to drought-stricken villages. The whole cycle of handling, processing and delivering goods and monies to the poor is a very lucrative business indeed. Be that as it may, who in his/her right mind would want to eliminate poverty?
In 2004, the government of a third world country hosted a meeting of regional N.G.O executives that had genuine interests in poverty reduction. Next to me was a European representative of a major N.G.O. It suddenly dawned on me that hotel accommodations, food, drinks, and expenses for our entourage were over U.S$100,000.00. The banker in me did immediate calculations. I reflected on my stay in Nigeria. When I was there I was getting approximately $150 Nira for each U.S dollar. I remembered how an elderly lady thanked me for giving her one U.S dollar. She told me that she would be able to buy bread for one month with that dollar. I slipped away into a quiet corner and calculated how many talk shops we have annually. When my turn came to speak, as soon as I mentioned our need to be more economically prudent, considering our aim “To Reduce Poverty,” my speech drew cheers from the delegation from Cuba, other Caribbean and Central and South American nations, but silence from highly developed nations. Since then, my invitations arrive just after the meetings have passed.
In spite of the fact that my invitations are arriving later and later, I am comforted in that since I highlighted the same issues in the reference book listed below, and elaborated on roots of many uncomfortable issues, unease has brought some swift changes. As a writer, I have no problem using my pen’s superiority over the sword. Every time I challenge my contemporaries to be more frugal, the results are amazing. The nations that are having difficulty delivering my invitations on time, have managed to cut their administrative expenses tremendously– sparing me the task of suggesting how they might do so in my current or future articles. I thank them for their efforts and wonder out loud whether or not we will ever see the day when poverty is eliminated?
Think of this: Capitalism is based on a system of buying at the cheapest market and selling to the most expensive one. Poverty underpins the system in that there must be people at the bottom of the economic ladder to prime the economic pump with cheap labor, cheap goods and cheap services. Worse yet, an erudite and kind-hearted Hebrew seer “Jeshua,” taught his disciples that they should take 10% of the entire offering to ensure that the needs of the poor are met. It worked so well for the reformed Hebrew and Gentile-inclusive early churches that in the initial stages they set the “First day of the Week” just to distribute monies to the poor. That system, called “tithing,” is institutionalized in all Christian churches.
Today, all Christian churches collect the tithes as stipulated in Malachi 3:10. However that scripture is linked to this directive in Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” In fact, Malachi 3:10 is among the most often quoted, and Matthew 25:40 is one the most omitted. Sad to say, many religious institutions use the same filtering process as the N.G.O’s. The collected funds defy the laws of gravity in most instances: they fail to filter down to the “least of these.” Arguments could be made that in most respectable institutions, the poor, though used to attract large sums of well-intentioned monies, are the last to receive the well-intentioned monies. With a formula such as that, it might appear that poverty might be around for a very long time indeed.