News Karnataka
Wednesday, November 29 2023
Brian's Subtle Humour

How on earth did we get our poverty lines crossed?

Poverty is king
Photo Credit : Unsplash

Yesterday, 17 Oct 2022, was world Poverty Eradication Day! celebrated by all countries that are a part of the UN because every country that is a part of the UN has poor people or is steeped in the culture of poverty, some more, some less.

According to the World Bank and The Brookings Institution, nearly 10% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty; 70% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa. And 79% of the world’s poor live in rural areas.

It’s not clear why this is. Does it flow from the policies of the UN, the World Bank or the IMF or does it flow from the policies of the governments of these nations back to the UN?

Either way, they, nor their members have been able to eliminate poverty, just the poor! And that’s no achievement, given that the dice are stacked against the poor in straight lines called poverty lines. In war, they are called enemy lines! But as in war, you have to look after your own behind these lines – because you sent them there! Right? That is why the World Poverty Eradication Day!

The 2022 Theme: Dignity For All in Practice (keyword for SEO) – The commitments we make together for social justice, peace, and the planet. Read the headlines to find out more about how the world puts into practice each of these commitments: from gender exploitation to financial exclusion, to racism, to casteism, to communalism, to war, and the emissions we let go, not just from behind, but in front of our committed eyes ostensibly because we have to lift people out of poverty; We give them a lift, but not the ride!

Those above these poverty lines drawn in the sands of inflation, by heritage, hard work, or happenstance, revise their lines before going to the theatre and they use them well! They help those below cross over no doubt and then leave them to fend for themselves. “Well, we helped you over, but if you slip back under, we will help you again! Not otherwise!”

Somewhere in the future, the points are plotted at conferences in 5-star hotels – The World Poverty Eradication Day is a good day to meet, eat, bleat, and plot those points – and a parallel line is drawn on a higher plane – there is a point to poverty geometry after all! But poverty remains with an added dimension – the poverty of hope!

Economists revel in these exercises as it helps them stay well above the lines they draw – like hovercraft! Be that as it may if you know your lines you can benefit from them! As many do. If they know your lines, they too can benefit! The only difference – is you can’t choose your lines! They can!

People line up to get over the line, not knowing what lies there. The tragedy is that once you cross the line, you are in no man’s land – neither rich nor poor – with no lines to guide you – it’s like the unspoilt Amazon (is it still unspoilt?) And you get the benefit of neither. The feeling is that of the Veggies in a subway sandwich. Crunchy at first, and soggy for the rest of your life as the mayo is dribbled all over you!

As the international community embarks on the Third Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (The inference is that until 30 years ago, nobody cared if you are poor, but soon found out that they constitute a sizeable chunk of the voting population, especially in developing countries), an estimated 783 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, compared with 1.867 billion people in 1990. That’s half. It should have come down to half of that in 2022.

But it hasn’t because the dollar has strengthened, although the rupee hasn’t weakened as many allege, and while the poor have not become poorer, the rich have become richer!

The icing on the cake was Corona! The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have pushed between 143 and 163 million people into poverty in 2021. Current estimates are that 1.3 billion people are steeped in poverty – and I use the word deliberately.

It’s a fascinating culture by itself – it gives you the ability, if not the strength to survive, sometimes even to thrive, to aspire, and even to perspire while doing so, something we have all forgotten how to do; All this if we do not believe the lie of poverty – that it is perpetual. When we cross the line, we imbibe a whole new culture – we prefer the relaxation of a commode to the strain of an Indian WC forgetting for a moment what is good for us!

But as in war and natural calamity statistics, all these are numbers, and matter little until you experience real poverty – when you can’t get medical attention, can’t send your child to school, or for that matter can’t get, let alone access the justice system. It is then that poverty transforms into the poverty of hope. And we are the poorer for that!

Some would say that Poverty does not exist; it’s just the absence of money! Like Darkness does not exist. It’s just the absence of light. And absence does make the heart grow fonder! We all know that! And so many scholars have said that Money is the root of all evil, either from experience or from studying others’ experiences.

But let’s just find out how those who have enough of it (is there such a thing as enough?) define it! According to Oxford Dictionary, Poverty is a state of being extremely poor. And that’s understating it!

Synonyms include penury, destitution, indigence, pennilessness, privation, deprivation, impoverishment, neediness, need, want, hardship, impecuniousness, impecuniosity, hand-to-mouth existence, beggary, pauperism, straitened circumstances, bankruptcy, insolvency, primary poverty, pauperdom. There is no poverty of synonyms is there?

The synonyms give you a complete understanding of what it entails – until you experience it and hopefully, you won’t! Its antonym is wealth! Some would say the wealth of health, and happiness. But if that were true, then it would have been difficult to draw poverty lines, wouldn’t it?

There is another definition – the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount. For eg. “the poverty of his / her imagination”

The UN has woken up to this second definition, where the poor are poor in everything that matters to the rich! Money for sure, then health, education, and standard of Living! They call it multi-dimensional poverty, and according to this new standard of determining which side of the line you fall on it  India is 62 among 107 countries on this global multidimensional poverty index,. The headcount ratios reveal that nearly one-fourth (24.8%) of Indians are multidimensionally poor.

The key to this whole index is comparison. Once you start comparing yourself with your neighbour, then you take poverty to a whole new level on your own, and sometimes theirs. But you don’t adopt a multi-dimensional approach when you do that, do you? You just look at their material possessions! their selfies and their smiles!

Poverty entails that you have nothing to fall back on, no nest egg, no safety net, but your back! It’s a tough life. But it must be lived. And it can be! Suicide is not an option – as you must not take the life that someone has given you!

Governments the world over are trying to eradicate the phenomenon, but are they really trying? and if they are, are they really up to it? For, if it were eradicated, then the reason for their existence will disappear, and they will become dispensable – their battle cries, their schemes, their scheming, all will become redundant.

The earth is oval, its orbit is elliptical – nothing is even or equal by the very nature of its creation – why so? That’s for another day. There are the strong and the weak – among flora and fauna even, the rich and the poor, the dark-skinned and light-skinned, the brilliant and the dumb, the yin and the yang. One must be absent for the other to exist. When existence itself is based on the comparison how can one be eliminated?

If wealth has to have some meaning, there has to be poverty – right? So why will the world even want to get rid of it? They will continue to lift the poor up, true, but others will take their place on the continuum of wealth until we develop a Culture that does not accommodate poverty or prevents it from taking root. This is the multi-dimensional approach we must take! This is the key to eradication of poverty, not just scheming!

Have a great weekend; use the lift to find a ride!

Photo by Ben Richardson on Unsplash


This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

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Brian Fernandes

Brian is an alumnus of Roshni Nilaya’s Post Graduate School of Social Work, HR Department and has 30 years of local and international HR and General Management experience. Journalism, poetry, and feature writing is a passion which he is now able to pursue at will. Additionally, he loves compering and hosting talk shows. He loves learning and imparting it; so, when time permits, he provides leadership facilitation and soft skills training to Postgraduate students and Corporates in Mangaluru and Bengaluru. Besides, he is an accomplished Toastmaster under the aegis of and a designated Distinguished Toast Master.

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