15 October, 2008


Well, BC's post alerted me to the fact that it is Blog Action Day (B.A.D.? You would think that they might choose a more appropriate name and, in turn, get a more appropriate acronym. Although, maybe this acronym inspires humour, and that's a good thing!)

So, the B.A.D. 'theme', if you will, is Poverty.
Poverty is... bad.

I have never experienced poverty. I have never been to a third world country, never seen the 'slums' of my own country either, really, and I have never, myself, been in a state of poverty.
There is always, of course, what the media show and tell us about poverty, but that is still not really experiencing it.

Duh. Yes, Emily, everyone knows that.

I suppose because I haven't experienced poverty, I am apathetic towards the topic.
Yes, I know poverty is bad. Yes, I know people die every day from preventable causes. Yes, I know people live in houses smaller than my bedroom. Yes, I know there are people who are my age and have to drop out of school to work and support their family. Yes, I know.

But somehow for me, and for millions of other people I suppose, just knowing all of that isn't always enough.
People are still selfish, including me. People still complain about things that don't matter...

Even though I feel apathetic towards poverty, I don't ignore it. I donate to charities, I join in with fund-raisers, it gives me a good feeling. But I don't really get passionate about it. Then again, it feels like a long time since I've been passionate about anything.

There are lots of 'end poverty' movements. Claiming that we can end poverty in our life time.
I think I believe that. I think. I mean, in theory it's possible, in theory we could eradicate poverty within a week. A day, even.

But will it ever happen?

Even if we do 'eradicate' poverty, there will be a new form of poverty. Societies will always be divided into status and class, and while all people may have basic human rights, a place to live, people to love, and food on the table, there will still be people with more money. There will still be people with less money.
So, in a way, we can end poverty, and in a way, we can't.

Gosh, I'm so defeatist.

Although, a positive way of looking at poverty through this 'defeatist' view would be to look at a story I've heard a few times about a boy walking on the beach...

There is a man walking along the beach after a storm. The storm has washed thousands of starfish onto the sand, and they are all lying in the sun, drying out and dying. The man sees a boy up ahead who is throwing the starfish back into the now calm water.

How can he ever hope to save all these star fish?

The man walks closer to the boy, who is still diligently picking up and throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

"Hey kid, what are you doing?"

"I'm saving the starfish."

The man does not want to let the boy down, but how on Earth can the boy save all the starfish? They are drying out much too quickly.

"But kid, how can you ever hope to make a difference? There are thousands of them, they're all going to dry out before you get to them."

The boy did not stop, or hesitate. He did not give up and go home. He just picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the sea before speaking to the man.

"It made a difference for that one."

He threw in another starfish.

"Made a difference for that one"

Another starfish, another.

"Made a difference for that one, and that one."


There are probably countless versions of this story, and I don't know if it's true or not, but it's a good allegory for poverty.

Maybe we can't change the world. Maybe we can't eradicate poverty forever, or ever.
But why should that be reason to give up, just because we can't change the whole world?

We can make a difference for one person. And another person. And another person.

Why should fear of failure or minimalism stop us?

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty


B.C. said...

Of course fear of failure shouldn't stop you.

You can never not sin. Does that mean you should stop being a Christian?

You can never understand God. Does that mean you should stop trying to know more?

You can never be friends with everyone. Does that mean you should stop being friends with anyone?

People who say that poverty can't be tackled because it's too big a problem and absurd to think anything can be done, should look at how ridiculous their argument is. There is always something that can be done - even if it's praying that God will help them.

There will always be problems of inequality in the world. But imagine if everyone took a defeatist attitude from the beginning of time? You'd have no inventions, hardly any progress, Luther wouldn't have reformed the church, Lincoln and Wilberforce wouldn't have helped end slavery, MLK Jnr. wouldn't have helped secure African American rights and so much more.

There is great hope in this world and it comes from people who believe in the power that a single human's actions can have.

Emily said...

You win the award for 'Constant Best Blog Comments' (CBBC. Hey cool it's made up of your inititals, and so much more. It's like CuddlyBearBattleCow. Anyway.)

Nothing has really inspired me to do anything about poverty more than you have Mr. Chong, thank you.

B.C. said...

Ah dear Battle Cow. Has been almost a year since that name was used. I think it died on the battlefield, not sure if I come back I'll be doing any more battling. There's probably a better way to handle the situation.
In fact, definitely.

I love to talk about what I'm passionate about. And I will talk with you any time.