Tuesday, October 17, 2006

World Day to End Poverty

Ten years ago today the United Nations affirmed that extreme poverty is a violation of human rights and initiated a decade focused on eradication of extreme poverty. Hmmm.... THAT went well.

Actually, there have been several important things that happened. Not the least of which is that the original voice encouraging UNESCO towards these efforts, F. Joseph Wresinski, was himself a survivor of extreme poverty. It is rare that we find ways to hear and respond to the voiced needs of the people we serve. Heck, it's rare that we ask them what their needs are. But even when we do, the answers aren't always forthcoming. The reflection necessary to answer the question isn't always available to people who are just trying to survive another day, which, in turn, suggests that people in poverty have the least power to shape the strategies that address poverty.

And of course, the whole problem is circular. Other human rights violations drive and deepen poverty while poverty creates human rights violations of its own. With Pope Paul VI, we note that if a person wants peace, then that person might consider working for justice. What can it mean, for example, to say that something is a right when there is no mechanism for addressing violation of that right?

What might egg-head social workers do to actually eradicate poverty? Be the rare person. Be the brave person. You don't have to abandon everything and live in solidarity with the poor -although that's not as hard as it sounds. You do have to reflect and act. Most people act without reflection. Academics sometimes reflect without acting. For heaven's sakes, do both. Decide what you're called to do, and DO it.

We might consider using our money ethically. I absolutely concede that a family involving academics and social workers doesn't have boatloads of money. But that's compared to.... what????? There are people living on less than $1 a day. Stop whining. Use your money rightly. Donate to just causes. If you can't find any (which would be weird, but hypothetically) start one. The biblical 10% tithe might be something to shoot for -even if you're not a particularly Biblical person. I mean, seriously. If the religious right can do it.....

My final idea is that we need to find (or create) a community of people wholly engaged in bringing about a just community. (One might call it the reign of god... or then again, one might not.) The web of relationships makes this work possible when energy and commitment fail. And they will fail. And that community needs to include people who aren't just like you -maybe even a few actual poor people. Be brave!

Yikes.... I can launch into sermon mode with very little provocation. Sorry. Maybe just remember this:

" Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty. " (F. Joseph Wresinski).


1 comment:

Wil Morat said...

Great post - especially the mention of the 10% tithe...

If the U.S. even donated 2% of GDP towards poverty eradication, extreme poverty could be eliminated within a 20 or 30 years...

Jeffrey Sachs wrote a great book about poverty eradication called "End of Poverty." (fitting title, I guess.)

Keep on caring...the world needs it.