Children Sharing

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Today is Blog Action Day. Each year bloggers around the world devote a post to writing on a worthy cause. Last year it was the environment, this year it is poverty.

There is no good reason for poverty to exist.

As Gandhi reputedly said, “We have enough for everyone’s need, not everyone’s greed.”

This is still true.

Whatever your politics, whatever your preferences there are options available to participate in ending poverty. There are the large scale ‘everyone is welcome’ groups with little ideology at all like Make Poverty History. They have a nice approach of ‘let’s have some fun while we do it’ and so put on concerts and such.

There is the small scale and local. There will be local efforts in your own city and perhaps your own neighbourhood.

If you lean to the left (like me – who is regarded by some as so far to the left as to have fallen off the twig) there are any number of charities and NGO’s who need support and finance.

If you lean to the right and dislike charity (I share the empowerment agenda of this group) there are micro-finance organisations. Probably the most famous is the Grameen Bank, but there are lots of others – including the Australian-born Opportunity International (I’m an Australian).

At the humble level of everyday shopping there is now a choice. Labelling such as fair trade gives us some way to choose companies that are working to make trade fairer and so reduce poverty.

If your faith community is very important to you, it will have a poverty alleviation arm of some kind. If you are secular and hostile to any form of faith there are secular organisations engaged in fighting poverty.

To help end poverty you don’t need to change your values or political allegiance. You probably don’t need to change your thinking or lifestyle terribly much (just buying one fair trade item in your weekly shopping makes it’s own small contribution). You just need to take one action – make it as big or small as you like, but do it.

For me, blogging fits well with the attempt to end poverty. It is information freely available to anyone who can connect to the worldwideweb. Thanks to the One Laptop Per Child initiative this will soon include many people who would not normally be able to do this.

Join me in ending poverty. It will add dignity to your life and we can have fun and make deeper friendships based on common values while doing it. Take the first step, whichever one suits you.

11 Comments to “Ending Poverty”

  1. StirMyWorld says:

    Hey Evan,

    Great post for Blog Action Day – it’s great to see you on board!

    We here at World Vision have created a special blog for the day – LearnAboutPoverty.org – and have a nice little competition going for the best Aussie post today (relevant to poverty and Blog Action Day) – two ticks for you!

    Just put your posts’ link in the comments section of this post to enter:
    http://learnaboutpoverty.org/2.....mpetition/

    cheers,

    The crew @
    Stir.org.au

  2. Barbara says:

    Evan, this is incredibly powerful and empowering attitude, added to the power of messaging.

  3. Evan says:

    Thanks Barbara,

    I do think we can all do something – what seems small to us can be significant to others I think.

  4. sarah luczaj says:

    hmmm… I am not sure that “you don’t need to change your values or political alliegance” to be part of the solution in ending poverty and not part of the problem. I appreciate that little steps can be taken and are taken by people of all political and religious stripes, but I do think the cause of poverty is basically political and economic, to do with power relations. Without a significant change in relationships to power, others and the planet itself, we aren’t going acheive much more than cosmetic changes (granted they will help a few people and are therefore better than nothing)

    yours from way off the tree 😉

    Sarah

  5. Evan says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Yes, poverty is about power. It really is true I think that “poverty is lack of choice”.

    As you people of all political and religious stripes can take action. This is what I meant by not needing to change values and allegiances.

    With big changes I have a bias to starting small (though having them embody major values shifts). This means that we don’t have to clean up the big messes from mistakes made when making big changes (which seem to often happen).

    We also don’t realise how radical we are in some parts of our lives. We mostly live quite free of economics amongst our family and friends – we share openly and willingly. Extending this type of thing further can be done (eg. child sponsorship for all its drawbacks – and they are many – is probably so successful for this reason.

    The problem as I see it is extending this personal relation to larger and larger groups. How does a network of sharing expand to national or international scale? There have been problems with the various kinds of local time token schemes (called LETS in Australia) for instance.

    My only clues at the moment are to do small things and then start linking the small things. I am aware that we may well run out of time. Unfortunately I have no other ideas.

  6. sarah luczaj says:

    By power I meant that one person’s poverty is in someone else’s interest.

    That it is a structural thing and without a structural analysis we won’t get far in eliminating it.

    As I write the markets are crashing…!

  7. Evan says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I think you are entirely right. Poverty serves the interests of particular power groupings.

    I think structural change is vital. It’s been good to see the emergence and growing popularity of fair trade for this reason.

    The lunacy of most trades in the markets being futures/specualative trades defies imagination.

    My guess is that engaging people means showing them that they can make a difference. The most popular green products are those that people are familiar with – household detergent and so on.

    There are also things like the Grameen Bank. I struggle to find ways to ‘bring home’ to people the structural level. But as you say it is essential that find ways to address it.

    I’m really enjoying your very insightful comments. Thanks. And I’m looking forward to any more you would like to make.

  8. sarah luczaj says:

    thanks Evan… I’ve been wondering about what I actually mean here, what it was that made me uneasy after reading your post.

    I think it’s this – I don’t like the idea that ending poverty is something else cool which we can do as individuals that makes us feel better. Ethics as a life style choice – improve your self esteem and as a useful side effect change the world – that kind of message which I pick up quite a bit in the media, now it has become obvious and ‘mainstream’ that we have to change things pretty fast, at least environmentally. It seems that individualistic capitalism has co-opted that message too. And that makes me quite angry. Not saying your post was exactly communicating that – more that my button got pushed somewhere as I was reading.

    I suppose I mean that anger needs to be felt here when we look at how the planet and most of the people on it have been crapped on by the few. Even while I see that if people feel good about their reusable bag at the supermarket that is something positive…and that every little helps…I find ignoring that anger uncomfortable.

  9. Evan says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I don’t think quite that ‘the medium is the message’ but the medium does affect how and what is communicated. This is a blog read by a particular audience for particular reasons (to get healthier – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially). So my focus is very individualistic. If you see this as limited I quite agree.

    I’m a bit fast and loose with our reasons for ending poverty. If someone (eg Bill Gates) gives millions to satisfy his ego, I’d rather him give it to poverty alleviation than buy yet another yacht or ugly house. My politics, to the extent they fit existing categories, are green-communitarian. (Although I don’t accept the line that local is better – people can be just as vicious in small groups as in large: villages have their drawbacks as well as their strengths). I think we need to start building the new within the old. That means working within individualistic capitalism in order to end it and make a more human-friendly society.

    I don’t think I advocated that people should change just because it will make them feel good, though I did say that they will feel better about themselves if they do. My own views have to do with social justice and compassion.

    My interest is in change. My writings for this blog focus on the changes individuals can make. My understanding is that change is facilitated by affirmantion and support rather than criticism and denigration (though disagreement is quite possible). My understanding about social change (far from my area of expertise) at the moment is that we don’t what will last and so we need to try lots of different things. Each of them a way of incarnating more human values. In Australia there was a huge fad a few years ago to get rid of plastic bags. This turned out to be ill-informed, what it did show was that there is a great reserve of good will to be tapped if people can be given relatively simple and low-cost ways to make a difference. It is desperately important that we find ways to tap this. This is my current understanding.

    I’ve done a few posts about why anger is good. With this post I was trying to show that there is lots that can be done relatively easily. I think anger’s role is in the breakthrough – I don’t think it sustains the new lifestyle: which is (hopefully) about (more) joy. If you would like to do a guest post about this (you’ve probably written most of it already) I’d be glad to host it. You are raising very important things and you put them well.

    My understanding is that we are social-individual. This is the purpose of adding the social to my understanding of health. I have written a few posts about this but it isn’t really what people read my blog for – probably (as far as I can tell – which may not be very far). So I don’t write about this as a topic much.

    My guess is that it is best for people to do something. And that once we do the first thing we are more likely to do something more. My hope with this post was to move people to do the first thing.

    Well, this response is almost as long as the post I guess. Apologies if it is too long, I thought you raised quite a few issues that are important and which I care very much about.

    Please respond further if you would like to. Your responses are well expressed and raise important issues. If you would like to and have the time you are most welcome to do a guest post.

    Many thanks for your comments.

  10. sarah luczaj says:

    sorry it has taken me a while to get to your comment here, just found it.

    i quite see your point that you are writing from a perspective (and therefore to an audience) which is all about empowering individuals and increasing positive actions and joy. i think that is great and it’s very much where i am coming from myself in my work and creativity.
    i hope i didn’t come across as accusative as far as your position is concerned…

    thanks very much for the invitation to do a guest post -i will do just that, and shut up for now 😉

    oh and btw – why do you say that the drive to get rid of plastic bags was ill informed?

  11. Evan says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Looking forward the guest post.

    The specific drive to get rid of plastic bags I’m referring to happened in Australia. It was to replace them with plastic that would degrade. It then occurred to people to ask what they would degrade into (the answer was nothing helpful). This is what I meant by ill informed. At the moment in Australia plastic bags are being replaced by longer lasting bags – but they are still made of plastic: I’m not sure whether it is an improvement or not.

    Thanks very much for this discussion. I’m looking forward to what you have to say.

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