Poverty’s not the Problem

We’ve had an outbreak of a social dis-ease here in Peterborough.

Folks who could be my cousins or yours – are without shelter in this July climate crisis.
And as in any crisis, generous folks are responding to meet the immediate needs with tents, bottled water, and other necessities.

But this social dis-ease has simply come to the surface with the closing of the Warming Room overnight shelter that usually keeps our cousins out of sight. The dis-ease however lurks much deeper within the bowels our society.

How is it in a G20 country of advanced technology, bureaucracies, and human rights legislations, that we can’t figure out how to trickle down enough wealth to meet the needs of our neighbours?

  1. We blame the victims.
  2. We blame the politicians who won’t raise taxes for fear of losing their seat for such an unpopular cause.
  3. We blame the system that’s overwhelmed with needs too many to sustain.

But what if we changed the conversation?

  • What if we chose to talk instead about our failure to redistribute wealth effectively?
  • What if the problem has very little to do with “the poor”?
  • What if the problem is actually those of us who enjoy privilege and wealth?

Talking about the problems of the poor is a great way to distract the conversation. From heart-warming success stories of those who’ve escaped poverty’s clutches to heart-breaking stories of those who are drowning in our midst while we shake our heads or throw them a leaky inner tube.

Let’s reframe the conversation to talk instead about me and mine, you and yours.

  1. Is there really a lack of resources? (let’s count wealth statistics instead of poverty stats)
  2. How much is enough wealth? (we know what the basic minimum income is – but what is the most that anyone needs? Is there such a thing as too much?)
  3. What harm does wealth create? (we know the social ills of poverty – what are the social ills of wealth?)
  4. Who deserves to be wealthy? (if the poor are undeserving – what are the merits that make greed acceptable?)
  5. Why is greed celebrated more than simple generosity? (cheating on our taxes is a socially acceptable sport – while choosing to be charitable is optional)

Help me out here will you? Send me your thoughts about the question above that most irks you. The stats you have. The reasons why you deserve the privileges you enjoy.

I’d love to have this conversation for a change. Let’s find a new diagnosis for our dis-ease.

Allan David Smith-Reeve

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