Tag Archives: Poverty

Eliminating Extreme Poverty: Possible Personal Contributions

I’ve been going through my older posts systematically in the last couple of weeks and taking the time to write an updated post on the many topics I touched upon since launching this blog in 2008.  It’s interesting to see how some things have really not changed in the last nine years, how some have completely changed, and how others still have morphed into something that straddles the line between the 2008 me and the 2017 me–like some thoughts on extreme poverty.

I had for one completely forgotten about Blog Action Day, something I was super enthusiastic about when I first started blogging but have, since then, stopped participating in.  It took me a little while to remember that it was a decision I took in order to blog more organically; in other words, rather than forcing out a post on a chosen topic, I preferred blogging about things that happened to me or around me, as an extension of the conversations I was having “in real life”.

I did, however, write one post as part of October 2008’s Blog Action Day about poverty that made me pause and think.  I could feel how, on the one hand, I had forced the post out of me, and on the other, how true it remains to what I still believe today: that eliminating poverty needs the full participation of every single person, and that addressing poverty’s root causes will help solve other issues as well.

In short, I had written that, while giving people money and food and donating to various organizations as Sun YouthRenaissance and The Old Brewery Mission does help, it doesn’t solve the causes of poverty, be it at the level of the structures of society or at the level of each person, both poor and not poor.

What about now?

These days, though, I am much more interested in what we can do at the grassroots to help alleviate poverty.  The first is an attitude change.  For example, a person living in poverty is still worthwhile, is still a dignified human being, and still has amazing capacities.  They don’t need us to “save” them, but they do need to be given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

I would like to give almost the same three suggestions that I gave nine years ago in this regard.  The first is to sponsor a child so that he or she can get an education. You can go through an organisation or find a school that accepts direct donations, such as Zambia’s Banani International Secondary School.  The second was to go for a period of service, however short it may be, to assist efforts at the grassroots to provide children with a solid education.  I would suggest, in 2017, that those who cannot offer such a period of service consider mentoring young ones right here at home.  The third suggestion was to contribute to microcredit schemes (more on the topic here and here).  The updated version of that advice would also include to buy, as much as possible, local.

Final thoughts

But ultimately, I think that the real, sustainable answer to poverty on a global scale is figuring out how to redistribute wealth in such a way that no one person is ever again to be found in abject poverty, no any one person is able to have so much money that they just don’t know what to do with it.  And while it might seem like a huge challenge that you and I, mere inhabitants with no international influence, cannot possibly address, our day-to-day choices will contribute to changing the patters in our society that contribute to the current massively unequal distribution of wealth.  It’s only a matter of taking our rightful place as protagonists of change.

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

Noticing the Glimmering of the Lesser Peace

I recently read an article, which talks about the relationship between poor housing conditions and the 25% of children in Montreal who suffer from lung disease, and suggests that the province of Quebec should invest not only in hospitals, but in home construction as well. Before, such articles would just make me so angry at the injustices happening even in a lovely city like Montreal. But this time, I saw glimmerings of the Lesser Peace and, albeit much more faintly, the beginning of the march towards the Most Great Peace.

Very simply put, the Lesser Peace is peace out of necessity; it is the day when all of the nations in the world will make a firm commitment to ensure peace, knowing that, due to the big strides in weapon development, a single war would cause massive casualties around the world. The Most Great Peace will come out of unity and love amongst the peoples of the world. We will go from edgy defensiveness but relative international security to being, well, one big happy family.

In the abovementioned article, there are clamours in a major metropolitan city in Canada to upgrade the housing of the poor. Currently, their housing is of such bad quality that the ensuing excessive humidity and related mould problems cause major lung problems in children.

The discourse is currently one of social justice and economics; it isn’t fair that children suffer the consequences of the economic hardships of the parents, all the more that their ensuing bad health becomes an economic burden for the entire population. And so, we are moving toward making a commitment to give them good housing. Doesn’t that remind you a little bit of the Lesser Peace?

But try as you might, social justice cannot be separated fully from love for humans. And so one day, perhaps this concern will grow into a love amongst the peoples of the world that would ensure this situation doesn’t even occur; all houses will be built as if for a family member, and so, although economically viable, a construction company will never even consider building something he wouldn’t let his closest of family and friends live in. By the same token, the concept of poverty as a barrier to basic health would be abhorrent to everyone, to the point that were a family to hit hardships, all their friends and neighbours would spontaneously arise to help them.

You might think that I am a naïve optimist, but you know what… I really do see glimmering of the Lesser Peace in the news, as well as the faint traces of the beginning of the march towards the Most Great Peace. And it is the best feeling ever to carry around as I continue trying to figure out how to contribute, however humbly, to building a new civilization.

Partying it up online à la Nerd!

After a very long time, I finally got an hour to catch up on my reading. I don’t know if I am just more efficient now at finding good articles, or if their numbers and quality has increased in recent years, but the wealth of empowering pieces that on the one hand sustain my hope for a better future and on the other give me ideas on how to realistically help advance human civilisation in itself gives me so much hope for the future. I also have been lucky enough to stumble on some inspiring blogs and also on a couple that offer some sweet smiles.

Here is a small round up of the most interesting pieces I have read in the last hour, as well as some of the videos I managed to pack into it.

  • It’s Fasting time, but it’s still morning, so I started off with some sweetness. Jonathan has been experimenting with chocolate and chronicling it on his blog, JJ’s Hot Chocolate. His January post, It May be Winter, but the Flowers are Here , got me craving for some chocolate of my own. I wonder if I can convince him to send me his January creation, which seems to contain rose petals, for sampling and a review. Then again, it might melt in the mail, so perhaps I will just have to figure out a way of visiting him. Warning: if you, too, are fasting, do not read this blog between sunrise and sunset.
  • Of course I am not randomly fasting; I am using this time to intensely reflect on my contribution to various unacceptable situations in society today. One of them being poverty, I read Philippe Copeland musing about the gap between the poor and the rich in America in his post Midnight Sighing numerous times. While I unfortunately don’t have an amazing insight to share with you, I do have a musing of my own to share: I love that Philippe doesn’t go into a rant typical of such posts; after all, it’s not bad to have material possessions; it’s bad when it makes you forget that you are, first and foremost, a noble, spiritual being.
  • Another thought provoking post on yet another contribution to an unacceptable situation in the world today that I hope to make was May’s Questioning underlying assumptions, on Engendering Equality. The question she raises, i.e. is taking a stand against some things in society that are perceived as sexist creating equality? Not really; but it definitely is a good beginning, as it creates a space for reflection on the topic.
  • Being a woman, the topic of feminism is one I spend a lot of time studying, consulting and acting on. I also look out for blogs that will help me in said process. Feministing has become one of my favourite blogs in a very short time. While I don’t agree with some of the statements, I love that these women are actively reflecting on what it means to be a woman, rather than to merely accept being what is expected of them as women. One recent interesting post was on Carl Sagan’s statement, written in 1981, about the exclusion of women from scientific organizations and how it helps no one.
  • Speaking of Feministing, I discovered the site through the Ted Talk one of the blogs’ writers recently gave. Courtney Martin spoke about Reinventing Feminism, which struck a particular chord with me. Going back to May’s post, Feminism isn’t anymore simply about standing up to the things in society that are perceived as sexist, but rather, creating a world in which women have the choice to do what they want, rather than being told what they should do.
  • Another fascinating Ted Talk I recently watched was Patricia Kuhl’s talk on The Linguistic Genius of Babies, which had me fighting the urge to start downloading Sesame Street in every single language I could find for the child that I don’t have yet. Hey, you can never be too prepared!
  • I got a little brain tired after all this reading, so I focused on a couple of simple and inspiring posts to end up my hour of reading. A poem always does the trick; check out Shiras’, Sensing Spirituality.
  • Last but not least, Borna has been on a roll, as recently, his blog has been popping up a haiku a day, as well as a virtue a day. Mysterious, intriguing and inspiring, not bad for a series of very short posts!

I’m now going to work off the head rush and sort out my thoughts. What a great way to start the day!

Eliminating prejudices: a lot of work to be done

The elimination of prejudices is an essential step in creating a new world order in which all humans have the potential to reach their high destiny, working together to fulfilling a dual moral purpose of advancing themselves as well as advancing humanity. Prejudices are of many kinds, and they all work to create disunity. Shoghi Effendi talked about the corrosive effect of racial prejudice in America, how it had bitten into its fibre and attacked its whole social structure. How many advances have we not made because we chose to ignore those we believed to be of lesser value than ourselves?

Racial prejudice has been one of the many issues I have been reading into throughout the last couple of years. In the course of this research, I come across many articles about other types of prejudices that are biting into the fibre of the global social structure and causing it to disintegrate.

The following piece was particularly well-written, and so I am moved to share it with you.

Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists, by David Sirota

During the recent fight over extending unemployment benefits, conservatives trotted out the shibboleth that says the program fosters sloth. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., for instance, said added unemployment benefits mean people are “encouraged not to go look for work.” Columnist Pat Buchanan said expanding these benefits means “more people will hold off going back looking for a job.” And Fox News’ Charles Payne applauded the effort to deny future unemployment checks because he said it would compel layabouts “to get off the sofa.”

The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.”

The idea is that unemployment has nothing to do with structural economic forces or rigged public policies and everything to do with individual motivation. Yes, we’re asked to believe that the 15 million jobless Americans are all George Costanzas—parasitic loafers occasionally pretending to seek work as latex salesmen, but really just aiming to decompress on a refrigerator-equipped recliner during a lifelong Summer of George.

Of course, this story line makes no sense. From liberal Paul Krugman to archconservative Alan Greenspan, economists agree that joblessness is not caused by unemployment benefits. With five applicants for every job opening, the overarching problem is a lack of available positions—not a dearth of personal initiative.

Why, then, is the myth so resonant that polls now show more than a third of America opposes extending unemployment benefits? Part of it is the sheer ignorance that naturally festers in a country of cable-TV junkies. But three more subtle forces are also at work.

Read the rest of this great piece here.


What we want, What we say and What we do: Not quite the same

As Sahar’s Blog has been evolving, I have been talking to more and more people around about the various subjects it covers. After all, the whole point is to create a forum where various points of views are represented, not just mine! And it always surprises me how people want one thing, say another thing and do something totally different.

Take the example of the elimination of poverty. Everyone wants poverty to be eliminated. Everyone says they will help by donating money to various causes. But many of those who dared answer the last question didn’t put their money where their mouth was.

The conversation became even more interesting when I pointed out that poverty wouldn’t be eliminated by donating money, but rather when the way we do things changes and, more fundamentally, when the reasons behind our actions change. It was amusing and, at the same time, a little sad to see how some would fidget uncomfortably when I would ask them what they would be willing to sacrifice of their cushy north american lives to help the lives of millions of others.

Which is why I found the article below, by MacLean’s very own Mark Steyn,  so interesting – even if I don’t agree with all of it.

What Bono says and what he does

There’s a well-documented reason the do-gooder can’t put his money where his mouth is

After playing the Obama inauguration a couple of months back, the pop star Bono flew back home to a rare barrage of hostile headlines. As you know, the global do-gooder wants us to send more of our money to Africa. So why is he sending his money to the Netherlands? From the Irish Times:

“Bono ‘Hurt’ By Criticism Of U2 Move To Netherlands To Cut Tax.”

U2 hasn’t, in fact, moved to the Netherlands. You won’t find them busking outside downtown Rotterdam mosques of a Friday night. But they did move some of their business interests from the Emerald Isle to the Low Countries. From the Times of London: “Bono Hits Back Over Tax Dodging Claims.”

Actually, he didn’t really “hit back” except in the mildest way, protesting that there was nothing “hypocritical” about being an “activist” and taking advantage of favourable “financial services” arrangements in the Netherlands, and that in any case U2 “pay millions and millions of dollars in tax.” Hey, so what? Any old Halliburton robber-baron pal of Dick Cheney can make the same claim: paying “millions and millions” counts for nothing when you’re supposed to be paying millions and millions and millions and millions. From the Belfast Telegraph:

“U2 Frontman Bono’s Tax Avoidance ‘Depriving Poor.’ ”

According to Nessa Ni Chasaide of the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, U2 has consciously deprived the Irish exchequer of revenue needed for overseas aid. “While Bono has championed the cause of fighting poverty and injustice in the impoverished world,” said Miss Ni Chasaide, “the fact is that his band has moved parts of its business to a tax shelter in the Netherlands. Tax avoidance and tax evasion costs the impoverished world at least 160 million U.S. dollars every year.”

Oh, come on. It doesn’t cost “the impoverished world” anything. It’s Bono’s money, not theirs. And who’s to say, even if he did give it to the government, that they’d stick it in the mail to some Afro-Marxist kleptocrat as opposed to squandering it closer to home? I’m with the U2 lads on this: I think the caterwauling rockers know better how to spend their dough than the state does. I’m entirely sympathetic to the wish of Timothy Geithner and the other A-list tax delinquents of President Obama’s administration not to toss one more penny than the absolute minimum into the great sucking maw of the government treasury.

Unfortunately, that’s not an argument a celebrity “activist” like Bono can easily make. So his “hitting back” consisted mostly of sitting back while the Bono impersonator Paul O’Toole stood outside the Department of Finance in Dublin singing his own version of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For—i.e., a jurisdiction with zero per cent tax rates for billionaire rock stars. U2 Ltd. actually moved to the Netherlands a couple of years back, about 17 nanoseconds after the Irish finance minister removed the tax exemption on “artistic” income above 250,000 euros. This was round about the time of Bono’s Live 8 all-star African-awareness-raising rock gala, but the world was too busy Rocking Against Bush to pay any attention. It’s only in the last few weeks that charities and NGOs and “justice groups” have decided to make an example of the unfortunate warbler.

But here’s my question: instead of arguing whether U2 Ltd. should be based in Dublin or Amsterdam, why not move it to Africa? After all, it’s essentially a licensing operation, so it doesn’t have any physical product to warehouse or ship other than the occasional PDF or MP3. All you need’s a phone line and a computer. Or, at the very least, why doesn’t Bono outsource U2 Ltd.’s tax preparation to Africa? With the invention of the Internet, India’s accountants started mugging up on 1099s and Schedule C and the other salient features of the U.S. tax code and have managed to snaffle a percentage of the American tax-filing bonanza away from H&R Block. Why couldn’t Bono open up a small accountancy firm in Bangui or Bujumbura? If he’s so eager to help Africa, wouldn’t that be a great vote of confidence?

Read the rest of this thought-provoking article here.