Letter: A poverty cop-out
“The poor will always be among us,” a Christian was telling me recently, using this message from the Bible to dismiss the problem, to justify doing nothing about it. But this is simply not so, especially today with our automated production technology. We produce enough food to feed everyone, but a third of it never makes it to the table due to the inefficiencies of a market system that manipulates scarcity for maximum profits. And we have enough homes sitting empty right now to shelter all of our homeless. Again, it’s the system itself that won’t permit it.
Should we accept that poverty is some kind of natural law decreed by an all-knowing deity? No, this is just one more instance — like the sun going around the Earth or stoning women to death or condoning slavery — where God got it wrong. Sure, we can understand why the kings and high priests who wrote and rewrote the Bible every century decided to keep that part in. Convincing people that they were meant to be poor, and born to be slaves, worked to the advantage of the rulers of that time (who were busy amassing all the wealth for themselves).
Today, not much has changed. When 62 people have more wealth than 3.5 billion, and the five Wal-Mart heirs are worth $85 billion, then it makes perfect sense that millions of American children are going to bed hungry. Because poverty is an act of man, not an act of God. As Nelson Mandela said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” There’s the truth, and then there’s heavenly fiction. So next time, please just finish the sentence. “The poor will always be among us — as long as 1 percent of the people continue to hoard all the wealth.”
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