I have been hearing the economic whinging of others in the last few months. Maybe even a few years. Mostly the complaints are the tragedy of ‘un-met wants’ and not having the latest greatest iWhatEver device that has just been released to replace iWhatEver PG (where PG=Previous Generation).
Yes poverty is real. It is horrible. To be truly poor is to have nothing – not even self-respect or dignity. The people I hear whinging about “I am so poor…” or “I have no money…” are not even close to being economically in poverty. They may, however, be suffering from mental and spiritual poverty. Really I probably am not the one to give advice on that aspect of personal poverty!
Here are some things to help you decide if you are truly among the economically disadvantaged:
1) Shelter. You have a roof over your head and it keeps you warm, healthy and dry. Shelter is one of the first basics. If you have a home, and you are not in daily danger of losing your home, you likely are not living in poverty. Home is your space and your air to breath.
2) Fire. Well we call that heat and electricity now. If your home has basic utilities and you can afford at least enough to keep your house warm enough to live, and have some means to cook a meal without endangering your life and health you are not living in poverty. Candles do not count as a heat or cooking source.
3) Water. Your plumbing works – or at least you have clean fresh water to drink and cook And enough to even wash. And a place to deposit your waste. Water is the key to life and without a reliable clean source you are living in poverty.
4) Food. Access to basic foods. Apples, bread, beans and green leafy vegetables for a start. If can buy seasonings, condiments, you likely are not poor. If you can afford meat for every meal you are not poor. Unhealthy perhaps – from all that high-level factory-raised protein in your diet – but not poor!
5) Toilet paper. If you can afford toilet paper and not have to steal it from public washrooms you are likely not living in poverty. If you can also afford commercial bathroom and household cleaners you are likely not living in poverty. Pssst vinegar and salt make excellent cleaners.
6) Soap. If you don’t have to use dish soap as your shampoo and body-wash then you are not living in poverty. Mmmm Palmolive – you know you are soaking in it.
7) Boxes of things. If you have to pack boxes to move you are not living in poverty. Think about it: If you own that many things can you claim to be in poverty? The more boxes you have to pack and move the less in poverty you are. If you have to sell it all just to buy a package of Mr. Noodles to have dinner – then you can tell me you are poor.
8) You can’t afford to wall mount your 50 inch HDTV on the wall. Wait – if you have a TV of any kind you are not poor.
Now I know some people are going to read my list of eight test items and say “BUT BUT”. Yeah I know – you can still be living marginally if you have all of the above. However, if you have a choice in how you allocate your spending then you are not poor. To be in poverty means every penny (when we had pennies in Canada) is allocated to keeping you and your dependents alive. To have choice in spending is not a matter of poverty – that is an issue of affordability. IF someone has to spend all their money on shelter – and there is no less affordable shelter – that is poverty.
A true test of poverty is this: If you can choose to wait for something to go and sale and then buy extra you are not poor. The best test of poverty is having the economic freedom to make choices not out of necessity but out of preference. If I need to buy a jar of peanut butter to feed my kids I will pay whatever price is required to get the least amount of peanut butter I can afford. BUT if I can choose to wait for the best price for the largest amount then I am not poor at all. Not by a long shot. That doesn’t mean I am rich – just that I am not poor.
Poverty takes away freedom, takes away choice, and most of all takes away the dignity of those that live in real poverty. Poverty makes people into economic slaves forced to do whatever is available and accept whatever is given simply to survive into tomorrow.
Poverty is the greatest obstacle to democracy, and the most effective tool of oppression. What are you going to do about it?
- I Want a New War (evergreeninstitute.wordpress.com)
- Government report: poverty not caused by being poor (this is not satire) (tompride.wordpress.com)