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Who Says the Poor Are Simply Useless!

Updated on September 27, 2018

Let’s Count the Poor, World Bank’s Way!

I admire the genius people at the World Bank. They have extraordinary skills in spotting the poor. Their magic poverty scale of $1.25-a-day separates the poor from the non-poor before you can even blink your eyes. Some complicated cells in my grey-matter can’t stop admiring the brilliant brains at the Bank whose poverty scale can so easily certify who is poor and who is not. In 2010, they counted precisely 1.2 billion human souls living in extreme poverty, below their $1.25-a-day magic income line. They also predict that by 2015 the number of extreme poor will down below 900 million because some people are very busy working on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals set up in 2000.

They have another magic wand of $2-a-day that proudly proclaimed sometime ago that almost half of humanity is poor on this scale. Let’s ignore this because it presents a depressing picture of our beautiful world! Some cocky cells of my tiny brain tell me, why not use a 10 cents a day poverty line and eliminate global poverty altogether, perhaps 1 cent a day income line would be still better! Then there will be no poor in the world – there will be only the rich and the non-poor walking on this planet!


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How will the World be without the Poor!

When I think about it I feel depressed because suddenly a lot of people would lose their jobs. They are people whose survival depends upon the existence of the poor.

I am not kidding. Just think about it and imagine what would happen if suddenly all the poor disappear and there is no poverty anywhere in the world.

To start with, just think of all those poverty experts at the World Bank, the United Nations and countless NGOs. They spend all their time counting poor and making programs to remove poverty. What about university professors and students studying poverty and writing research papers and doing doctorate in poverty! Worst of all, they would all lose their fundings. I also feel for the social workers and social scientists championing the cause of the poor. I am also depressed that the international conferences for the cause of the poor would become history.

The poor are always blamed for crimes in the society; without them, what will the penologists and criminologists do! The welfare departments of governments across the globe will closed down making employees jobless! The politicians around the world will lose their favorite vote catching issue, poverty!

It would be a pretty depressing scenario. But I see a silver lining at the end of the road: all these out of job people would soon start counting themselves as poor!

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The Rich are Rich because the Poor are Poor!

I fail to understand how suddenly a man without money becomes bad. Or, for the same logic, how having money turns a rascal into a hero. When some cells in my tiny brain tried to understand the rich, they came up with the conclusion: the rich are also nothing but “poor souls” with some extra cash! Even when they have more cash than they can count, the story is not much different.

My experience of humanity is different: when you look at today’s world, the chances are high that you might find the poor to be better human-beings and they are likely to be more kind, compassionate and helpful than the rich. If you somehow end up hurt on the road, a poor is more likely come forward to help than the rich who weighs his minutes and hours in terms of dollars. We all know it.

You may be surprised to know that the poor give more generously than the rich. There are surveys to indicate that the least well-off give a higher proportion of their income. For instance, some years ago a survey in the UK found that the poor donated 4.5% of their income towards good causes than the affluent class which gave away only 2% in charity. This clearly bursts the myth that charity is an agent of wealth redistribution, a vehicle by which the rich help the poor. The reality of modern charity is that the rich write charity checks primarily to get tax breaks and promote their own sense of important. In fact, if they were really kind-hearted they would treat their employees with respect and dignity rather than treating them as mere tools to make more and more money. They would think twice before firing any employee. That would be much nobler contribution towards social development than signing charity checks, taking the tax benefits and walking with a cocky head.

All three images from same source
All three images from same source | Source

The Poor are Important Part of the Society

If you belong to the category of people who think that only the rich contribute towards progress and development and the poor are only social burden, you are a victim of bad education. In reality, the rich owe a lot of their prosperity to the poor whom they look down upon.

Below are just a few ways the poor contribute towards social and economic progress, without which the rich might not live so cozily.

Low wages: Due to their disadvantageous situation, the poor form a low wage labor pool to carry out “menial jobs” others are not willing to work. With their low wages they subsidize a variety of economic activities that ultimately benefit the affluent. In fact, there are many tasks the rich would never think of doing themselves. Can you imagine an cocky rich elite repairing his own toilet? But for the presence of the poor, the rich can’t take many of their comforts for granted.

That’s why the rich would not allow poverty to vanish. People are needed at the bottom so that people at the top are assured of their comforts and privileges.

This exploitation of low wages has also given rise to the concept of out-sourcing: look at the profits so many companies in the rich countries are making by sending their low level businesses to the poor countries where wages are just a tiny fraction of what they would have to pay in their own countries. I fail to understand why, for example, the Americans or the British complain of bad foreign accent of the call-centers located in India or China because their own companies are increasing their bottom-lines that way.

Conserve Resources: As a matter of lifestyle people in the affluent countries rarely use any item to its full use and keep jumping to the latest versions or models, whether cell phones, clothing or home appliances. I personally find it irresponsible and strange to buy something and not use it to its full useful life (and then make noise about climate change and global warming on the streets!!). Fortunately, here the poor come into picture. They have no problem using the second hand goods; they even pay respect to food-stuff which the rich want to throw away but are still eatable.

Clearly, the rich are a bigger burden on the resources of the planet and the poor come across as more responsible, more disciplined and more modest – qualities only fools can’t appreciate. I am amused that even the ever increasing frequency of disastrous climatic events due to global warming and climate change doesn't make the rich mend their wasteful lifestyle. The contribution of the poor towards this global mess-up is the least. So, they are the most eco-friendly human species on the planet!! Yet, they are the first victims of any natural disaster. What a sane world order!?

Catalyze Medical Innovations: The poor "support medical innovations" as patients in university and research hospitals; they are more courageous in trying new treatment than the wealthy humanity hiding behind cozy comforts. At the international level, how drug companies try their latest innovations in the form of humanitarian aid in the poorer nations is not a hidden secret. And what is the reason behind their ‘kind gesture’? It is certainly not that Mother Teresa inspired them in their dreams; it allows them to make safe money in their own societies back home after their ‘real life trials’ on the unknown poor succeed.

It is another wonderful reason why the sick and rich people should be always thankful to the poor. But thankfulness is not a common virtue found in the affluent people - they are "poor" on this human wealth!

Inspire Art and Music: The poor and their suffering have enriched the world of art or music. History is full of example how poverty or suffering inspired production of great pieces. Think about where the “Blues” music originated in the past and how the slum-dwellers of Mumbai inspired the Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” just few years ago. The rich love to enjoy listening or watching tales of human suffering, of course with popcorn and drinks! A lot of writers and poets receive inspiration from the poor – they owe their creativity to poverty. But why worry about giving them the credit? They are poor anyway.

These examples are enough to prove that stigmatizing the poor is senseless. But unfortunately, money and greed are eating away basic human qualities of morality and justice in all societies.

I am Too Rich to Feed Myself!
I am Too Rich to Feed Myself!

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Are the Poor Useful for the Society?

Too Much Wealth is Unhealthy – Said Plato

Once upon a time, there was a wise man; people called him Plato. He must have been really a wise man, because wise-man know what makes a good society. It is another story that unwise people (me, for example!) don’t understand or don’t want to understand what the Wise Men say! Today people are crazy for money and adore the rich; in fact, for many, making money is the sole aim of life until they drop dead! It is also not hard to spot people who are so busy making money that they don’t even have time to live! But this wise man labeled, Plato, was able to prophesize the side effects of accumulating too much wealth long time ago when the world was not ‘developed’ in today's thinking. In his piece, The Republic he commented on the significance of poverty and wealth, which can be summarized in 4 simple points.

  1. Justice in the sense of the morality of individuals and societies, is far more important than the acquisition of wealth,
  2. Moderate wealth is important for its function to enable humans to live a moral life,
  3. Poverty and excessive wealth have negative consequences for both individuals and societies, and
  4. Desiring and possessing excessive wealth disrupts and destroys moral integrity and internal harmony in individuals and societies.

Of course, he was challenging people to rethink the role and position of wealth in society. But clearly in the 21st century it is difficult to find people who would like to take on this challenge, at least not among those whose opinion matters. And the reason? They are too busy proving that Plato’s 4th point is correct!!

Why So Much Poverty in the World

Today in the age of "plenty of everything" and so much technological advancements, if most of the humanity is poor it is a sign of bad and unjust world order. The Western superpowers who today dictate everything globally are still living in the century old ‘industrial revolution period’ in their mind. They appear to have been following two wrong guiding principles for a long time:

1. Development only means industrialization and economic development and

2. Survival of the Fittest

Why development should only mean economic development?: There is material opulence in the rich nations and yet their understanding of ‘development’ appears stuck – endless expansion of the economy and using people to achieve it. It’s a funny situation that people, their evolution into better humans and their moral/ethical development have no relevance while talking about ‘development.’ I find it totally ridiculous that the ‘most developed’ nations are blind towards increasing spread of arms, violence, crimes and addictions in their own societies. They have failed to create a system that is "poverty-proof" and is based justice and fairness.

It is not development but sheer non-sense if children waste their time on mastering ‘war games’ at the computer screen rather than learning physical sports, arts, music, languages and humanity and science subjects. Can they really ‘develop’ without knowing a thing about importance of ethics and morality? Will they ‘develop’ into peaceful and useful adults, if they have grown up playing games of violence and wars?

No. They can only invade countries, exploit people, exploit nature, and create more and more deadly killing machines.

Spreading arms in societies is spreading violence and crimes. Creating more and more deadly weapons and selling them around the world is not development. It is not wisdom; it is plain stupidity. If the people of the world have been truly developing all these decades and centuries, weapons and wars would have become history by now on the planet.

Clearly, the concept of ‘development’ needs serious rethinking and it must put people at the center, not money, economy or technology. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen shows the way: if the so-called rich nations want to develop further they will have to start focusing on people and making them more capable of being better humans. It is a sign of relief that at least some people in the rich world (particularly in Europe) are showing interest in his Capability Approach to development. We need to understand Why "Development" should Focus on People, Not Economy.

Survival of the fittest: This lesson from the evolutionary theory combined with the sub-human arrogance of power lies at the root of all conflicts and wars in the world today. The Western nations historically used their superior fire power to colonize most parts of the rest of the world – Asia and Africa. The only idea was to plunder natural resources of the colonies and make their home countries prosperous. It laid the foundation for the creation of the poor or the ‘third world.’ The mental virus of ‘survival of the fittest’ led them to fight two bitter wars in the first half the twentieth century – and proudly called them ‘world wars.’

Wars and invasions are the signatures of the primitive barbaric people who lived among animals and acted like them. I find it utterly silly to see well-fed people on news channels armed with automatic weapons, with wild animalish look on their faces, ready to kill – either in the name of god or in the name of protecting ‘national interest’ or ‘lifestyle’. What is, however, common among them is that they least represent the civilized or developed human race.

I am painfully amused to find ‘developed’ people of the 21st century glamorizing the decade long occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as the ‘costliest expedition’ in the human history. The war on terror in Afghanistan since 2001 has decisively internationalized violence and terror activities. The world is hardly more peaceful after the 4 – 6 trillion dollar war adventures. No one knows which country would be the next target and under what pretext.

The message is clear: stop learning from the animal kingdom and start learning from the real Human-beings history has ever produced: Buddha, Christ, Gandhi or Mother Teresa. If the leaders of the richest nations dare to learn the simplest message of ‘love thy neighbor’ from these true Super Humans world has ever produced, the face of the world will be changed in no time. Until they come to their senses and realize that they are heirs of these great Humans, the sick comedy of war and invasions will continue and most of the humanity will stay where it is – in mental poverty.


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