REFLECTION: The poverty challenge PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:53


We have to be ready for the poverty challenge. The world is entering a new, dangerous phase, if news items are to be to be considered. Scary possible scenarios are painted, pointing to a global economic meltdown, since the leading world economies are facing a tough future.

Again, I would not like to tackle the technical aspects of the economic crisis, since though an economist by profession, I feel that, now as priest, that’s not anymore my area of competence. Besides, I have not been monitoring the economic world events that closely.

What I prefer to do is to highlight the spiritual and moral implications of this crisis that we all need to be more familiar about. After all, at the end of the day, it’s in this level where things get their final verdict.

We have to be clear about poverty being not all that bad. There is something good in it, otherwise our Lord would not make it one of the beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Still, we can not and should not brush aside the ugly face of inhuman poverty that prevails in many parts of the world today.

Let’s hope and pray that our bright minds and political leaders are able to find the practical solutions, at least in the short term if not in the long term, to this deadly threat of a world economic collapse.

I am optimistic that while this delicate stage in our world history can be a tipping point, solutions one way or another will always emerge. Perhaps, a new leading economy in the world will appear. For sure, realignments will take place, and yes, these will involve some painful adjustments.

Thing is we should not approach this world predicament solely from the purely human point of view—economic, social or political. That’s needed, and in fact, to the hilt. But remaining in that level does not capture the entire weight of the situation. We need to go beyond.

We have to input the moral and spiritual aspects, the contribution of our faith that would bring this issue to a more comprehensive context. We have to overcome the bias against the moral and spiritual considerations that seem to grip many of our leaders in this area.

Economic thinking simply based on math, social assessments that only capture the externals of human behaviour just are not enough.

We cannot the deny that at the root of this global crisis is a virus that has gone viral for quite a time already, left to fester since it offers many sweet palliatives and other intoxicating decoys. It’s a sickness of the soul that has sold itself to the things of the world.

As consequences, we have become complacent with our duties and responsibilities that always go with our dignity as persons, children of God, citizens of a nation, etc. Work ethic has deteriorated, since work is largely seen as just a means to earn money, develop one’s potentials, acquire power and fame, etc.

Forgotten are work’s inherent quality to develop us as thinking and loving persons, united to God and to others, and meticulously mindful of the demands of the common good, the requirements of solidarity and subsidiarity that are always needed in any life shared with others.

Work has become a tool of self-assertion that creates its own divisive attitudes, language, and ultimately its own culture and lifestyle. In this system, work is detached from the designs of God and made to play the games of men, where things like greed, envy, deception, self-interest can easily dominate.

Thus, we see people spending more than they are earning, people working only for their own vested interests with hardly any consideration for the others, people expecting more privileges, and if still working, they are working for themselves, not for God, not for the others. Forms of excesses are increasing.

Our current world economic crisis is basically caused by a wrong work ethic, one that has not understood the true value of poverty that would always make us feel in need of God and others, in need of virtues, like moderation, sobriety, justice.

In fact, in this system, poverty is exclusively understood as having no money or no job, or living in bad conditions, etc. It’s a poverty blind to its original substance. It’s a poverty that is always pictured as an enemy and never as a friend.

Let’s recall what St. Paul said: “I know...both to abound, and to suffer need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” (Phil,4,12-13)