08 February 2020

Poverty :: And the Rest of the World

So, I saw this via my Facebook feed:

I thought she was brave, well-spoken, compassionate, and passionate.  Congress absolutely needed to hear this.  Good for her, having the courage to do this and have a voice.


I think we should also remember that most of the world does not live like America, even those who are low-income.  Ms Hutchinson makes a good point about poverty levels in America, and certainly when compared to the outrageous incomes and spending of political officials, she and those like her are dealing with poverty.  Nevertheless, I'm guessing Ms Hutchinson and her family have a roof over their heads.  And while everything is certainly relative to where one lives, it is also true that abject poverty, as the rest of the world knows it, does not exist in America on the level in which it does in, say, Africa.  Or Asia.  Or parts of Eastern Europe.  Or South America.

While I completely applaud Ms Hutchinson, I also think we need to remember some other expressions of poverty:




Habitat for Humanity, UK, has written an article called Relative vs Absolute Poverty, and it is worth a read as part of this converation.

They define poverty in these terms:

Absolute poverty is when household income is below a certain level, which makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, shelter, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc. In this state of poverty, even if the country is growing economically it has no effect on people living below the poverty line.  Absolute poverty compares households based on a set income level and this level varies from country to country depending on its overall economic conditions.
The last sentence is the key piece here.  In America, the overall conditions are the aboslute best in the world.  And this automatically makes the poverty level higher than it would be elsewhere, say, in India. I am not saying that poverty in America isn't a real thing.  It most definitely is.  What I AM saying is that we need to understand that going without McDonald's or a TV is NOT a hardship.  We need to begin putting things in perspective.  It will help both ends of the spectrum.
 Relative poverty is when households receive 50% less than average household incomes, so they do have some money but still not enough money to afford anything above the basics.
I believe this is closer to what Ms Hutchinson is dealing with.

This type of poverty is, on the other hand, changeable depending on the economic growth of the country.
Relative poverty is sometimes decribed as "relative deprivation" because the people falling under this catergory are not living in total poverty, but they are not enjoying the same standard of life as everyone else in the country.  It can be TV, internet, clean clothes, a safe home (a healthy environment, free from abuse and neglect), or even education.
Relative poverty can also be permanent, meaning that certain families have absolutely no chance of enjoying the same standards of living as other people in the same society currently have access to.  They are basically "trapped" in a low relative income box.
I do believe that relative poverty is soul destroying.  I do believe that Ms Hutchinson has an absolutely valid point, and that EVERYONE in poverty, whatever sort it is, deserves better.




All I ask is that we remember others -- those who have no voice because they are not American, or British, or they live under tyranny, or they are persecuted for their faith, or they are the "wrong" colour -- and they live in poverty.  Extreme, absolute poverty.  They need help, too.  And they wouldn't even understand what Ms Hutchinson is talking about.  They would view her as wealthy.

We need to be asking ourselves how we can help these people, too.  And we need to ask whether our home country is even on this list:

Even Pope Francis is working to alleviate poverty.  Part of the Vatican has been opened as a homeless shelter.  What are we doing?  What are you doing?  What am I doing?

I want to do more.  Pope Francis has said:

Poverty is a scandal.

Something to think about...

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