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The Big Answer


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Poverty

an article by our site



According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

The United States determines the official poverty rate using poverty thresholds that are issued each year by the Census Bureau. The thresholds represent the annual amount of cash income minimally required to support families of various sizes.

Child poverty in the U.S. from 1970 to 2011
Child poverty in the U.S. from 1970 to 2011

In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons on Earth lived in poverty. The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest poverty rate since 1993. Between 1993 and 2000, the poverty rate fell each year, reaching 11.3 percent in 2000.

Children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population. In 2010, 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor. (Source: National Center for Children in Poverty)

Many of the opportunities we have lost and keep on losing to militarism are quantifiable, in clear economic and environmental deficits. But the fear and hostility, the damage to democracy and human rights, and the sheer human suffering of the estimated one billion people left in absolute poverty on our planet, who are the legacy of a wasteful and uncontrolled arms race, cannot be measured.

Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy
Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy. Additionally, hyper-militarization like the U.S. practices is slowly ravaging the planet, and the damage to democracy and human rights, and the sheer human suffering of the estimated one billion people left in absolute poverty on our planet—the legacy of a wasteful and uncontrolled arms race—cannot be measured.

Think about the fact that the U.S. is the world’s biggest arms dealer, willing to sell instruments of war and destruction, with only a few limits, to nearly anyone. And to the degree the U.S. won’t sell to North Korea and Iran, it doesn’t matter since Russia, China, Ukraine, and Germany will generously find a way to get them arms—even through back-door channels. So if all of the above countries won't get caught selling arms to North Korea and Iran, for instance, does that mean they cannot get them? No. They can make them. But for most types of arms, all they need to do is deal with “middlemen.” We sell to a friendly country who sells to a friendly middleman who sells to a less friendly middleman who sells to an unfriendly (to us), amoral middleman, who sells to North Korea and Iran. Not too complicated. We make tons of cash, and often end up arming both sides of a conflict, as does Russia, China, Ukraine, and Germany and lots of other countries. Aid money sometimes ends up used for weapons buying, food surpluses we ship to various countries sometimes ends up sold and the money used for bullets.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest arms dealer
The U.S. is the world’s biggest arms dealer

Why are countries choosing to support violence and wars and killing rather than to feed their people? Why all the hate and violence? The reasons are often very simple and crude. Sometimes it is simple greed: they have what we want. Sometimes it’s about desperation, when there's too little land to support an overpopulated area, so enough killing and taking land will stave off starvation (does it never occur to them that breeding like rabbits when there are no resources to support it is crazy?). Sometimes it’s because they practice a different religion than we do. Oftentimes, there's a really nasty egotistical, power-mad, murderous brute who convinces followers to follow him as he kills, oppresses, robs, kidnaps, (etc.) and then they can share in the spoils and loot and land and power. It’s not only Hitler and Saddam Hussein who acted like that. History is full of such leaders, and there are lots in today’s world as well, whether foreign warlords or cartel leaders in Mexico or leaders of outlaw gangs in our cities.

While the Earth's population is increasing, its capacity to sustain human life is decreasing
While the Earth's population is increasing, its capacity to sustain human life is decreasing

While the Earth's population is increasing, its capacity to sustain human life is decreasing. The incidence of hunger is highest in the third world, where the highest rates of population growth are seen—combined with the lowest levels of technology and food production. Recent increases in infant survival due to improved medical care have made the situation worse. Without serious family planning programs, outmoded views that children are valuable as free labor and old-age security has caused an increased rate of growth among these countries, compounding the problem of feeding everyone.

There are political and logistical barriers to receiving the surpluses of other countries, such as the U.S.
There are political and logistical barriers to receiving the surpluses of other countries, such as the U.S.

Famines are the totally predictable result of populations outstripping the productive capacity of the land (what biologists refer to as "carrying capacity"). Overcrowded land, as in sub-Saharan regions of Africa, quickly turns into barren desert as it is over-grazed by livestock and its woody vegetation ransacked for cooking fuel.

Overcrowded land, as in sub-Saharan regions of Africa, quickly turns into barren desert as it is over-grazed by livestock and its woody vegetation ransacked for cooking fuel
Overcrowded land, as in sub-Saharan regions of Africa, quickly turns into barren desert as it is over-grazed by livestock and its woody vegetation ransacked for cooking fuel


Africa
Africa

Rainforests, where most of the nutrients are locked up in the vegetation, become poor-producing cropland when cleared, giving out after one good harvest. Contributing to these famines are political and logistical barriers to receiving the surpluses of other countries, such as the U.S.

Even in the U.S., thousands of people are hungry and homeless. Twenty-five percent of the children in the U.S. in 1990 were living below the poverty level.

Even in the U.S., thousands of people are hungry and homeless—some are penniless
Even in the U.S., thousands of people are hungry and homeless—some are penniless


The income gap between the rich and poor is huge and obscene
The income gap between the rich and poor is huge and obscene

About 800 million people worldwide are starving or malnourished; 800 million are without minimal health care. Poor countries now spend three times as much on arms as would be needed to provide health care, clean water and sanitation. In 1984, a year of famine and drought, Africa spent more on importing arms than importing food. Every few seconds, at least one child dies and another is severely disabled by disease. Yet for the equivalent of what the world spends on six hours on defense per year, this could be avoided.

Almost all the wars since 1945 have been in developing countries; and over 20 million people have been killed. Yet as many as 20 times that number have died from starvation and/or disease.

As the problems of poverty worsen, the populations of the Southern Hemisphere grow larger. Populations in developing countries are fast becoming a bigger percentage of the world's population.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have the glass half full perspective on poverty, aid, disease, famine, etc., while many of the statistics one finds online have the glass half empty perspective
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have the glass half full perspective on poverty, aid, disease, famine, etc., while many of the statistics one finds online have the glass half empty perspective

3 MYTHS THAT BLOCK PROGRESS FOR THE POOR is an important challenge to the "poor people are hopeless and desperate and the situation is worsening" attitude Bill Gates has run into around the world. His challenges are well thought out and deserve attention. Simply put, Bill's "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation" have the glass half full perspective on poverty, aid, disease, famine, etc., while many of the statistics one finds online have the glass half empty perspective.

If one can believe Bill's optimistic viewpoint to be basically factual, things are getting better, not worse. He says that helping farming families increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term. So he is doing that, along with promoting the Green Revolution and ensuring that foreign aid is used effectively. Hats off to Bill for helping these worldwide problems with his efforts and his foundation.

Recall the prior discussions about the buttload of money being spent on arms, defense, and war, and recall that if this military spending (which is going up everywhere) was diverted to food, health care, clean water and sanitation, many problems could be solved quickly and much bloodshed and suffering could be prevented. But this can never happen as long as the authoritarian character structures of virtually all countries, families, and individuals on Earth persist. Churches, schools, families are promoting this authoritarianism in the way we relate, think, fight, compete, and—most vitally—parent our children. See The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power and A Dream Deferred for more on how the curse of authoritarianism is wrecking the dream of ever having a democracy that works, a country that isn't war-mongering, values that we live by and practice rather than give lip service to, and so on.

We'll not be surprised if Iraqis start seeing billboards with 'Miss me yet?' under Saddam's picture!
We'll not be surprised if Iraqis start seeing billboards with 'Miss me yet?' under Saddam's picture!

Saddam Hussein created an environmental disaster when he lit the Kuwaiti oil wells on fire. It didn't do him good or help his war effort. But he was a classic win-lose authoritarian personality, as was Hitler and Stalin. Win at ALL costs, dominate at all costs, make everyone quiver in their boots and bow down to you, their leader—and do all this at ALL costs. Environment be damned. Peace be damned. Happiness be damned. People be damned. Nothing whatsoever matters even the slightest bit except winning at all costs, even if it costs the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. American companies sprayed South Vietnam with Agent Orange from end to end with little thought to short-term and long-term environmental consequences. Monsanto curses the world's farms and the organic farmers and the world's food supply with genetically modified foods and lots of nasty sprays and the Supreme Court gives them their stamp of approval. All of this derives from authoritarian thinking

Bush invades Iraq on false pretenses and he knew it. The U.S. policies of backing all manner of right-wing dictatorships has identified the U.S. as an enemy of almost every resistance movement on the planet, but they keep doing it. Again—more authoritarian thinking. It makes us do things we're not proud of—but this shame is only perceived if we ever listen to our HUMAN sides. But authoritarians rarely do. McNamara's evil Vietnam War, after which he later admitted that the war was a lie from the first is a good example of authoritarian thinking. It never had anything to do with the freedom of the Vietnamese. Almost 59,000 American soldiers killed and the many more horribly hurt. Why? For oil, military industrial complex profits, and to please corrupt American politicians. Again—more authoritarian thinking. The list of examples of the evils of authoritarian thinking could go on forever. Because the history of the world is in many ways one big long chronicling of the evils of authoritarian thinking.

War—the best example of the evils of authoritarian thinking
War—the best example of the evils of authoritarian thinking

"We have too many built-in incentives for war in this country: a military-industrial complex that employs millions, both Democratic and Republican politicians who find political success in supporting “defense” contractors, neoconservative ideologues who want the U.S. to militarily dominate the globe, self-interested bureaucrats whose budgets depend on an endless array of alleged threats, and special interest lobbies tied to foreign powers seeking to turn American aggressiveness toward targets of their own choosing. The outcome is often policies that kill and maim millions." (Source: Is Iran the Real Problem?) Again: our leaders are the lackies of the military industrial complex which gets them to churn up hate, distrust and fear so American arms sales continues to set world records and we keep spending most of the U.S. budget on the military industrial complex—it all derives from authoritarian thinking.

Poverty is what the world's people end up with after our defense department finds ways to churn up so much hate, distrust and fear in the world that they convince countries to spend their money on war and arms. Russia and China play this game as well although NO country admits to fanning the flames of conflict for their own self-interest. All this poverty doesn't have to be, but it is the legacy of a wasteful and uncontrolled arms race and it all derives from authoritarian thinking.

It is only if we replace win-lose, authoritarian thinking with win-win cooperation that the world has a prayer of ceasing all this hate, fear, war, suffering, and misery. And this cannot possibly be accomplished unless the parenting in our world transforms from authoritarian parenting to authoritative parenting. We need a movement that gets people to transform from using authoritarian parenting to using authoritative parenting. And instead of social engineering, government programs, political salvationism, and leaders pushing things down our throats, it needs to be grassroots activity that inspires INDIVIDUALS to take the right steps—by choice. Because they want their lives, their kids' lives, and the world, to work better.

We need to replace win-lose, authoritarian thinking with win-win cooperation
We need to replace win-lose, authoritarian thinking with win-win cooperation