Poverty and Power

Kid_strong flickr Brian Auer

Usually when I write about poverty (which is most of my posts on this blog), I combine stories and research articles, and I link to other posts I’ve read or written. I check what I’ve written, to clarify what I’ve said and to avoid needless repetition.

But for this post, I’m not going to do that. As I write this, I am strenuously making the effort to not think about what I’ve read or written before. (If you know how my brain is constantly on, you’ll understand how much it’s like work for me to not think about things.)

I am writing these thoughts as they come to me. So forgive me if they are unclear, or if I’ve written about it before. Here goes my best effort at a stream of consciousness . . . .

Idea #1: Your Poverty Level and Your Power Level

Poverty is inversely proportional to your level of power.

(Yes, I used the word “inversely.” I’m a math nerd.)

Basically, the more poverty you have, the less power you have. Whether it’s true or not, this is what it feels like when you are in poverty. You feel like your situation cannot change and will never change. You give up hope, for yourself and (more often than not) for your children.

Remember, poverty is not just about a lack of money. It’s about the inability to get sufficient opportunities and resources.

Idea #2: Your Power Level and Others’ Poverty Level

Power is directly proportional to someone else’s level of poverty.

I don’t know where poverty started. When was the last time in human history did all of mankind  have their needs met? I’m sure there are plenty of theories, but because detailed recorded history only goes back so far, we can only guess.

But at some point, there was a person, a family, a group that was in need. And there was someone who was willing to “help,” but at a cost. The one in need had to give up something, some freedom. Maybe it was a form of servant-hood, or a debt. But suddenly, a gap grew between the have-nots and the haves. And this gap had less to do with resources and more to do with freedom and power.

And once someone gets that power, it is hard to let it go, or to be satisfied with less. In fact, in order to keep that power, he must maintain a sufficient base of people who are below him. Remove the base of needy and dependent, and the power goes away.

Idea #3: Communism and Capitalism

When it comes to solving poverty, both communism and capitalism have failed.

As best I remember from my liberal arts education from Furman University, Communism and Marxism proposed the notion that we could meet everyone’s needs as a single unit or community. People would give up individuality for the sake of the “common good.” But to force this community to do so required someone to have power. Yes, the entire proletariat may be on a common level, but you still have the bourgeois.

Capitalists, on the other hand, propose that through hard work, people can earn their way up the socioeconomic ladder. If someone wanted to change their life situation, it was up to them to buckle down and get it done.

This idea is true, to a sense. But over the past few decades, it is apparent that economic mobility is less common and less accessible. (Trying . . . to . . . not . . . link . . . an article. . . .) And in our country, business and political leaders thrive and survive on the dependence and needs of others.

Yes, many have bettered their lives (and their children lives) through this capitalistic mentality. But it has not solved poverty. Poverty does not necessarily inspire hard work. And hard work does not always get you out of poverty.

For those who were able to “work their way out of poverty,” in most cases it involved other resources – physical, mental, social, and spiritual. These resources are not equally available to everyone.

What I’d Like to See

I’m not anti-capitalism, or (for that matter) anti-communism. By the grace of Jesus Christ, I strive to be pro-people.

I don’t want to do away with the bourgeois, or the haves. I just wish that we had a system that was less haves versus have-nots, and more haves plus have-mores. I have no problem with people who have positions of power, as long as they are willing to sacrifice their power if that would mean caring and providing for those under their umbrella.

Whether you believe in capitalism or communism, at least don’t practice economic cannibalism, where you can only succeed by devouring (metaphorically) someone else.

What do you think? I’d love to know if you think there is a connection between power and poverty.

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

**image courtesy of Brian Auer via Photo Pin and flickr


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2 responses to “Poverty and Power”

  1. Rob says :

    Jesus said the poor you will always have with you… so I’m betting we will always have poor people. I do think at least in the US with all of its resources that it’s theoretically possible to have poverty be a temporary season for any one person instead of a generational quagmire.

    Like you mentioned you would need a government that doesn’t get power by perpetuating poverty. Also real pain and consequences (third world real) to people’s decisions. We don’t have a stomach for that. Most importantly a spirit filled church willing to be last so they can be first.

    The cynic in me thinks all are impossible.

    One thing I’ve noticed recently is that once you are poor, it will usually take an incredibly long unbroken string of good choices to get out. There is no margin to cushion a slip or Muphy’s law.

    You have to have a powerful, long term hope to sustain that. I’m not sure of the fix but it seems our system today offers the opposite of that.

    • joeyespinosa says :

      I like how you put that, “a generational quagmire.” And to get out of a quagmire or quicksand, you have to do everything perfect. Or, you need Someone (or a group of people) who have the ability & desire to rescue you.

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m tracking right along with you.

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