The Options of The Poor & The Underprivileged
When solons, government officials and anyone in the government service speak of proposed programs, it is always stated in this way: “these programs will help the poor and the underpriviledged” and many more rationalizations. Poor in general means having little or no money, a state that shows poverty. Underprivileged on the other hand means lacking in opportunity.
There are numerous programs available to such category of society. There are scholarship programs, housing programs, livelihood – name it, every democratic form of government has it. Yet, why do the poor remain poor? Why are we still seeing streetchildren? Why is drug abuse rampant? Is there something wrong with the programs or is it the people themselves?
During a teaching stint at a State University, I asked a couple of Nursing students as to characterize what is poverty or being poor for them. Here are the answers:
- “I consider myself poor if I can't come to school because my parents cannot give me money.”
- “We can be considered to be poor if we don't have anything to eat.”
- “If we cannot pay for utility bills like water and electricity, then we are poor.”
There are many more descriptions that were given but all were grounded on one thing – money. To these people, the lack of money means being poor. The lack of opportunity to earn money can be considered underprivileged. If these nursing students, already studying consider themselves poor if such appropriations won't be available, what will they call the children who walk a couple of kilometers on bare foot and if lucky enough, with slippers, just to attend 4 hours of school in a cramped nipa hut? The poorest of the poor?
I overheard a 10-year old kid arguing with his mother: “Why can't I bring my PSP during the field trip? All my classmates will bring theirs. I will look pitiful if I don't bring any gadgets with me.” More and more children today thinks that they are poor, that they are less fortunate when they don't have the same with that of the neighbor or that of their playmates. What happened to good old face-to-face conversation?
The definition of “being poor” or “poverty” or “underprivileged” stays the same. True, it means lacking in something valuable. But somehow, the past generations got lost, that value and opportunity in simple situations are difficult for them to see.
A professor once told a student who did not submit his research paper on time because there was a nationwide blackout for a day prior to submission. “Before the advent of computers, people used to spend nights on the noisy typewriter. Before the advent of the typewriter, young people used to spend sleepless nights writing their term papers. Before the advent of electricity, students burn night oils to study. And before you, many have been Nobel Prize winners, inventors, analyst or simple men and women with initiative and resourcefulness as their only defense against the challenges of life. You are considered the poor of the poorest when you cannot do something about your situation, when you cannot see any solution aside from what you have been used to. It is in lack that humans invent things and objects to lighten the load but it is also in these inventions that humans will fail to develop and achieve their full potential.”