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?

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Responsibilities of Activists and Citizens

Warning, poorly written.

Our responsibility as activists

I try to do good as an individual, be informed, make good decisions based on that information and my values etc.  It seems like other people try to do the same thing too, but I think maybe I have been going about it in the wrong way.  I have been trying to be informed across the board and make decisions from my own knowledge and values.  Instead, I think maybe I have to find organizations and groups I can trust.

These groups would be the ones who do the footwork for my knowledge gaining and decision making.  Ideally they would get the information, filter it and share the most important with me so I can stay up to date along with vouch for certain other organizations and actions which will help forward the cause of that organization and support my own values.  That’s a massive responsibility and amount of trust in others, but maybe that will be the way to strengthen the social movements that support these causes.  What if everyone who really cared about the environment and focused on it also worked with groups who tried to get social justice and vice-versa; sharing information, teaching and giving recommendations for how to act and what to buy and who to support etc.  I’m beginning to wonder if trying to go at everything as individuals is not the way to get the change that some people want, or that I want.  Maybe the Occupy Movement was actually onto something in trying to take everything on all at once.  Just the needed community, communication and sharing wasn’t there, or wasn’t as strong as it needed to be.

It seems that what activists need is the ability to focus and someone who can then focus all of the other foci in order to cause the change that is wanted, for environmental policy, for justice and everything else.  As members of the activist community it seems that we need to not only focus on one specific thing to be able to do good work for it, we also need to make sure to reach out to others and create strong networks with them and take responsibility for the information we share with those others so that they have the right information that allows them to also work on their own focus and help your own important goals too.  Maybe it is time we try to see the elephant in the room instead of just our aspect.

Why I am Embarrassed to be in University

I often find myself embarrassed to still be in school, even if it is university and so many people consider it a great thing that I am in it and “getting ahead” or whatever the new phrase is.

This is because in school I can still avoid responsibility.  This is weird to be saying because in a way I am doing the very thing I am embarrassed by but still.  School teaches me and gives me the opportunities to avoid actually taking responsibility of my own life and my own education.  I can always say I am tired or that I have a lot of work to do in school when I don’t really have that much.  I can always avoid taking responsibility for this stupidly expensive education, yet I don’t and as students, we generally don’t.  There is a certain maturity that has to be met in order to take that sort of responsibility and by going straight into university after high school, like I have done, you never gain that maturity, you just keep pushing your responsibility off for another four years.

I spend my days in classes thinking about other things, for example, this blog.  Instead of focusing on classes I’m off daydreaming about what I am going to write for a blog post, or what I want to do research on but then never do it because I am “too busy” either procrastinating/stalling on doing homework I actually have to do.  At the same time though, I am genuinely not interested in my classes, I am not necessarily choosing them because I have an interest in them, but because I have to in order to get a degree.  This is where I end up my own bind.

I am saying I am embarrassed to be in school because it allows me to avoid responsibility in classes in a way and then I say I am not taking responsibility because the classes do not fully interest me.  I am not even sure what adjective describes this situation, but it certainly is not coherent in my understanding and it does feel like I am still attempting to take a sort of back-door out of responsibility for my own actions by saying this.  But at the same time, if I was genuinely interested or allowed to do the things I want to take responsibility for i.e. do my own research and writing, wouldn’t I do a better job and be a better student?  Wouldn’t this hold true for every student who actually cared for their education?  Could there be a solution to student disfavor (? I am not sure of the right adjective to use) of classes in the solution to this question?

If instead of education being an assumed thing and top-down in what has to be learned, wouldn’t people be better students if they had to go out and get it themselves, do their own research and get interested in their own projects?  I understand there is a basic level of information that countries feel a child should know at some point, but after that certain level of basic knowledge, it seems to me that any other “general education” becomes entirely useless because the students would not be interested in it at all.

One might reply, but this can lead to too much specialization and not coming up against people with differing opinions, be it in classes or in texts.  My response has three parts: yes, no and so what? Yes: definitely, I would only start reading the bits and pieces of information I find interesting and useful to my own set of knowledge (I do this anyway…..).  Yet, this will make me learn a lot more in a way.  For example: an individual continues to research their little section of knowledge (I cannot come up with a single subject that is highly removed from other topics except for pure mathematics), by nature of being part of the earth they are probably going to end up having to spread out into other areas in order to better grasp the concepts that they are more focused on, therefore they will spread out in their specialization, even in pure mathematics I am sure that one will have to reach outside of their own little set of ideas for something. If someone is doing or learning about a topic they are bound to get conflicting reports of some sort or in some way, (i.e. scholarly journals, magazines, communication).  No matter how hard one tries to hermetically seal themselves into a certain group I am sure that once they step out into the real world they will run into competing opinions only relatively recently has technology gotten to such a level as to be able to completely encase oneself in a certain viewpoint without ever hearing opposition.  At the absolute least, there are going to be groups of people interested in the same type of things and they will disagree I am sure. So maybe one’s own curiosity is the only way to actually get a good education after a certain level and universities are not the places that promote that.

I am still embarrassed to be in school, and even more so now in a way because I recognize that I want to take responsibility for my education, but I do not know how while I am in school besides educating myself outside of school.  Yet I do have work I have to accomplish while in school (not saying I am “too busy” but homework does exist no matter what, taking time away from my own studying), since it is so expensive I really do not want to do too terribly and I certainly don’t want to come out with all of this debt and no credit for this time I have spent in university since it is apparently the only way to get a job (maybe) after I graduate currently.

This embarrassment may not apply to all other university students but it does to me and I certainly hope I am not alone in this respect, this is embarrassing enough and heavy enough of a burden with hopes that someone else understands it, let-alone if I found out I was the only one.

Well, that ended on a sad note.  Off to continue in the loop though of not taking responsibility by doing other work in a way….This entire thought is also strange too in seeing it from outside like this….