The curse called poverty
Poverty is a vicious, venomous thing. It is like the most rancid of sores, spewing its stinking pus and blood all over the place, splattering not only the sufferer, but everyone in its wake. We are fortunate in this area. Most of us don’t recognize it or pretend we don’t. We are spared the sight of subhuman creatures foraging through garbage bins competing with the rats for a few scraps of stale, half-eaten pigswill.
Our poverty is much more hidden and because it is hidden it is more civilized, nicer, much easier to accept. Hunger and poverty are no strangers to this area, but we just don’t or won’t see it. A trip to the local supermarket should open our eyes, but it doesn’t. For a supermarket is poverty’s most degrading playground. It is there in the female hand that reaches for a tomato, in the shocked eyes as they connect with the pricing sign above that tomato, in the same hand that is too quickly pulled back, in the crestfallen look as the face above that hand turns away. We don’t see poverty as she moves like a wraith through the market, places her pocket-book on a shelf, intensely counts her few coins, don’t see her as she selects a tin of cheap meat and takes it to the checkout. We ignore poverty as she heads into the biting March wind, don’t know that this single tin of meat will be her only food for the next few days, don’t know it will be eaten in a cold house because she can’t afford the luxury of warmth and comfort.
We don’t know and we don’t care and it is because we don’t care that the worst curse known to humankind continues to exist. To deny a person his or her humanity is a terrible testimonial to those who govern us, and yet it is the one injustice perpetrated against some of us and accepted as normal by the remainder. We may point to our publicly funded healthcare system and announce to the world that we treat our sick gratis, but we don’t care that many are ending up in that system because they are denied the dignity of even one good meal a day and a warm place to live.
We don’t know and we don’t care and it is because we don’t care that the worst curse known to humankind continues to exist.
It should shock us, the children of the 21st century, but it doesn’t. There is that smug acceptance, even the covert encouragement of this frightful disparity which excludes, divides and ultimately conquers. And that is what makes poverty so dangerous. Its ability to conquer.
It is time now to vanquish this most ignominious of conquerors. It is time to respect the humanity in that semistarving woman and to give her and others like her the resources to live like humans. It is time now to stop making decisions that negatively impact the lives of our most vulnerable and to restore dignity and hope to those who have been denied it far too long.