The curse called poverty

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Pat Cullen Pat Cullen is a jour­nal­ist and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer who lives in Car­bon­ear. She can be reached at 596-1505 or cullen. pat1@gmail.com.

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.

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