What Causes Poverty?

This week two questions were asked: “what is poverty?” and “what causes poverty?”

My knee-jerk, smart-ass response to that was: Poverty is caused by sitting around asking these questions.

Talk about the kettle calling the pot black being a philosophy major. Meaning I specialize in asking questions and not going much further than that.

But really, it is an interesting topic to an extent.  Also, I have to react in some way to someone who wrote “capitalism” as the thing that causes poverty.  I intend to start with “what is poverty” though, I am a philosophy major, defining words is my thing.

Poverty, I think, is instability if one goes to the very root of poverty although I think the better phrasing is “lack of stability.”  (Yes, I do in fact enjoy going that deep into phrasing.)

I say this because lacking stability leads to a feeling of no control and probably a relatively poor environment (physical, emotional, psychological).  These things then cause some form of hopelessness meaning no planning for the future or minimal planning for the future.  That leads to certain mindsets which just continue this terrible cycle.  I like plant analogies so, in this situation, poverty would basically be lack of stable soil/water/sunlight for a seed.  Take those things away and a seed probably will not grow and, if they are of poor quality, that seed may grow but not to its full potential.

I say this because, without some sort of stability, some sort of solid ground, it is impossible to make any leaps, any leaps of faith.  Those leaps of faith are the things required to be and feel successful (just run with me on that for sake of argument please).  Think of all of the assumptions made on a daily basis by an individual 1) there will be a tomorrow that they will wake up to 2) their living shelter will still exist and still be theirs 3) they will wake up in good enough health to get to work 4) they will still have work to go to or have the ability to find work 5) they can or will get some sort of food/nourishment.  The alarm has not even been turned off yet and we have 5 assumptions!  Plenty more get made once you sit down and think about it.  Not being able to make these fundamental assumptions leads to instability and loss of control which, I think, leads to a cycle into the usual sort of poverty of lacking money etc.

The problem is, how do we promote that stability required without simply hiding poverty?  As in, how do we create something that helps someone create their own stable environments without simply creating a fake stability and thus helping to create a reliance on the help and then generational poverty?  Somehow we have to figure out how to help someone build their own permanent stability where there is none or very little to start out with.

STOP what you’re thinking.  This is not a critique of current programs that exist or anything, I am simply pursuing a line of thought that is not often discussed openly (at least not in the circles I frequent).  Instead of critiquing government etc., what if I threw the responsibility back to you, as an individual and member of society?

Instead of waiting for a government program to come and help solve poverty without you, as a citizen and possibly neighbor to someone needing help, doing anything, maybe it is time to think about how you, since you are right there, can help create stability for your neighbor.  You, as the person on the ground, can actually see where stability is most lacking and are closest at hand to help that other person actually begin to find stability or create stability.  As an actual face too, that person is less likely to become reliant on you because humans are proud individuals and having to look at someone constantly that they owe will help them want to get free of that “owing” and return the favor in the best way that they can.  Not saying you ought to look for something from that person but, their want for their own individual pride, can help make sure they do not become reliant on you for stability; something that a vague program simply cannot do.  Just saying, next time you want to critique a vague program of any sort: what part have you had with it and what are you doing to fix those problems you are critiquing?

My Ethics: Part 3

Due to realizing how much this work will expand I am going to cut it short at this post.  I am going to writing out the rest of it and see where it goes from there.

Rationality, the God of our world currently.

Rationality comes in, insofar as it is reasoning and seriously thinking about the world and an individual’s situation that lets you understand 1) every situation is actually different and 2) a full overview of one’s situation.  This is again when being rational you can apply rules in an understanding way allowing you to actually be just towards a person, even one you do not actually know.  Human rationality and imagination allows an individual to place themselves into a different situation and come to understand some of the motives behind another individual’s actions.

This imagination and rationalization is what allows you to be just as mentioned in the prior part of this tirade.  Also, this imaginations and rationalizing can be spread across humans in a way that other ideas cannot do.  Every human being understands care, caring relationships, relationships in general and the emotions attached to them in various ways.  I think it is called “drama” in theater and part of the reason why the same plays and emotions can continually be called upon in entertainment: they are fundamentally touching to humans.  It is hard to get this feeling for every single human being on the planet though, the relationship I have with someone on some other continent whom I’ve never met is not the same as a peer in a class which is not the same relationship I have with my parents.  Each one is sort of like a different circle with me in the center, parents are closer than the peer which is closer than the other I’ve never met.

In order to gain access to this far-out relationship though I need to bring it closer to me, get it in arm’s reach for me to understand the relationship and the person.  Imagination and rationality are the things that produce this affect.  If I am told about the other’s situation I can attempt to put myself in their place and try to apply reason to the relation.

Reason does not end at this point though, it can take bigger steps.  But, what reason can do is for an individual to explore and too big for me to feel like taking on in the scope of blog posts.  So that’s the beginning of an ethics, caring, virtues and rationality.

My Ethics: Part 2

This is seriously just the second half of my draft, at 1,000 words total so far it’s a bit on the long side so I thought I should try to spread this whole system out a tad.  So continuing from the first part, found just before this one.

One can begin to see that children in some way, understand this work required for a caring relationship, those little drawings and gifts that children early on attempt to make for their parents as an example.  There is an understanding and a socialization that caring requires certain work and that gifts are an appropriate way of showing and promoting caring.  Then children start interacting with others.

When this interaction starts they are again taught that caring is important, they learn to show friendship, trust, make gifts for each other etc. etc. etc.  They learn to care about the other children and adults in their community and identifying them.  For a long time this is about as far as one would necessarily have to go in raising a child, but we live in a different world now which has different requirements: the children begin schooling.

Now, in broader respects children are sent to school and learn to identify their nation, they learn to identify others that are in some way related to them such as other English people, other French people, other people who are members of their extended community.  They learn they have to care for these peers in some form, they have favorites of course but they are all their own in a way and fellows.

If it stopped here (as it used to), we have serious and bad consequences: slavery, terribly devastating wars, brutality on scales we do not usually see, cannot fully comprehend nor imagine.  If one learns to only identify their “kind” their “nation” and not anything more it becomes really easy to view others as less than human and one’s own kind as higher.  At this point though it becomes hard to consider “care,” it’s just not a concept that lends itself to easily being expanded and recognized at this point.  This is where those virtues that children have been taught and socialized with come in handy.

Consider the virtues, generally they are things that relate to being a good person, good citizen/member of a community or anything similar to that.  Also it is generally assumed it seems that you cannot really be a good person in a vacuum.  Think about a good person though what is it you think of?  Not just a charitable, benevolent person that’s just a nice guy.  But they have a personality there is something memorable to them and you want to be with them, they are simply fun people to be with.  Aristotle deals with this a bit more specifically, for example when he talks of humor.  Someone who can’t tell or at least take jokes is not nearly as easy to care for or be around to have a relationship with.  They also know how and when to put in the proper efforts for relationships, if they make mistakes even.

Humans do make mistakes, simply.  Even this incredibly good person who you spend time with, notice another thing though: when this person makes a mistake, you are “just” to them through being understanding of their mistake and their situation, you care back to them and show it through appropriate gifts etc and being understanding and supportive etc. when the good person makes a mistake.  You are being impartial with regards to yourself, say the good person forgot something to show that they care for you at an appropriate time (birthday for example I guess).  You remain impartial and understand that they had other duties or things to worry about and you are fair to them through acknowledging they make mistakes and cannot possibly do everything at once, unless of course you are hanging out with God on a regular basis, that is a slightly different story.  You care enough about your relationship and your friend that you are willing to be fair to mistakes made by either party.  Rationality comes in for this also.

My Ethics: Part 1

Alright, time to really start creating something.   I’ve spent enough time doing a light observation of the current situation  so I might as well try to create my own.

This new form of ethics, since I feel it deals with real life, not extremes, is going to be somewhat different from most that you know, hopefully.  At least I consider it different since it takes two ideas and blends them together into something to help describe how the world works and then become normative out of it in a way.

My proposal is a combination of virtue ethics and the ethics of care (yes feminists, I’m taking this idea, hopefully I keep it correct enough for you because I do think there is something important in this idea).

It is a slightly different direction though; care ethics (CE) is not going to be absorbed by virtue ethics (VE), it is going to go the other way around.  CE is going to be the place out of which we get VE.

The firs thing, why do I not take utilitarianism (util) into account or deontology (deo) or one of those other ethical systems that float around in philosophy classes?  They are pretty absurd if you stop and consider it, for util all value is based on utility.  Usually this utility is focused on the largest amount of happiness/well-being/goodness or whatever for the largest number of people.  Deo on the other hand basically argues that the person must be trying to be moral by following some certain rule, no matter the outcomes, when that person was attempting to be entirely moral/ethical their action was correct.  So where did these values come from?  Utility just seems to get pulled out of nowhere, I mean I could simply argue that justice is more valuable.  Deo is just replacing God’s commandments with reason’s commandments.  In my opinion both of these are only useful as tools for coming to a decision, not actually a way to live a moral life.  These rules are for computers or for the virtuous person to have in mind when at a dilemma but not THE way of ethical/moral-ness.  No one would be happy trying to follow these rules out to a T. That’s just a short response to make sure there is a basic understanding of why I don’t even consider those seriously.

One thing that CE definitely gets right is that we are born into caring relationships: I see no possible way for this to be argued without being entirely absurd, find an infant, just born, who will be able to survive without the caring relationship of at least a foster care-taker of some sort if not the actual parent and then I will have to adjust my understanding, I won’t be holding my breath though.

So, starting from the idea that we are born into caring relationships.  This idea of caring is also usually described as a practice along with being other things.  Practices take work and thought in order to improve one’s own practice and those around them.  So, at first, being just an infant you really probably aren’t too worried about being virtuous in the relationship, you’ve got bigger problems to attend to, such as your hunger.  But, children grow up.

A Fundamental Logical Error

The law of non-contradiction: X cannot have the adjective q and not-q at the same time. Within logical systems this of course works and is fundamental for a lot of ideas, theories, etc. But, it has expanded too far; it expanded into the human realm with the assumption that an individual cannot be both an individual and not an individual.

The law of non-contradiction made it so that one cannot say that a person is both an individual and a part of a group.  They cannot be both the private person and the public person; only one or the other is allowed at one time.  For some reason I am not sure of yet, the Enlightenment chose the individual, private person as the main focus of reason/logic. This is the point that I think one must put on the breaks.

Only through being aware of one’s connectedness can one really accomplish anything.  In other words, humans are a social animal, I am personally incredibly okay being alone for periods of time, but I know that being alone all of the time is both boring and bad for me.  A lot of great thinkers have struck on this idea: Aristotle being a big early one, there is Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America, he calls this idea “self-interest rightly understood” (or something along those lines), Feminists with the ethics of care have hit it, Jesus with “love thy neighbor” (if you’re feeling religious), for the underdogs we have Marx who talks about this idea, Nietzsche considers humans as herd-animals, wanting to get more scientific our cousins the primates, apes etc. tend to be social, not to mention our friends: dogs.

Dogs brings up an interesting subject with cats and dogs being usually two of the most popular pets: cats are solitary and dogs are more social.  Could this be an image of this unusual spot humans find themselves in?  We somehow go back and forth between the two extremes of being solitary and social.  The problem with the law of non-contradiction is that it does not allow one to be both or work on being both at the same time.

It also seems that no one wants to attempt to deal with both of these natures at the same time.  I think it could be a solution to the theological problem of evil, I also definitely think being aware of this back-and-forth allows for a much more fluid and useful ethics.  It also allows for massive critiques of a lot of Western society: education and economics specifically.  I intend to go into these later.

So consider, which is “more” human?  The individual in the “state of nature” as our society is founded upon or the individual in a family/society as the ethics of care and virtue respectively are roughly founded on?

Another Life Metaphor

Life is a constant war and one must live like a soldier.  Your armor is your character and yourself. Every morning you have to wake up and carry this armor with you.  Every action you take has to be defining and defending yourself.  Every action sharpens your blade, strengthens your shield and hardens your armor.  The world we live in is always trying to crush you, make you a tool, to make life secure. Security requires the disarming of yourself and letting your armor go.  A secure life is the undefined life. The defined life is a constant struggle, always a chaos that you create and control.  The life of definition is hard, dirty, and uncomfortable.  The life of definition is always on the very edge of living and sanity.  The defined life is lonely because you are yourself, but the best of companions can be found there.  When two stand on their own they can truly respect each other.

Thoughts On Honor

Honor, not the stupid useless honors courses, classes, frats, sororities and other academic groups.  There is no honor in academia.  In fact it often seems that society could get rid of academia and still do just fine, that’s another discussion though.

True honor needs to come back to society.  This feeling of honor was one of the many good things to disappear from society in this “post-modern” world and it needs to be brought back.  Not necessarily nationalistic, just personal honor and groups that support that honor.

Everyone needs to feel that they are bound to an honor code of some sort.  This by itself would lead to a lot of things getting sorted out in the U.S. we all felt honor-bound to either do or avoid certain actions and truly felt pride in having this honor we would end up doing or avoiding those actions.  It just seems to me that a true honor society that you have to work at to join and stay in is needed for everyone.