Poverty is not a choice

Poverty is not a choice. I don’t think it is. It’s not something like a button that you press on your laptop or gadget. It’s not as if all the poor have taken religious vows to shy away from worldly riches. If it were, the great majority of those you abhor would not choose a life of hardships. In fact, most of them have been striving to free themselves from such enslaving chains. True, you might have seen lazy persons. If all the people in the world counted to 100,000,000, a minority of 1% would be 1,000,000 – that’s many! And yet you fail to see the great 70% – 70,000,000 toiling farms, running machines, etc. – never lazy but still poor.

Too often, the more privileged among us, opined that not to work is a choice. Again, that is true. There are also those who are choosy in finding work. The great majority, however, do not have a choice. Poverty has deep, intricate and interconnected roots. Discussing them – demographic roots, intergenerational patterns, and the never-ending cycles of lack of education, environmental degradation, poor governance, etc. – would take more than a short blog post. In fact, not just a few scholars have elaborated on why the poor remain poor in their books, some dedicating entire lifetimes to studying this matter.

One thing shines above the many reasons of prevailing poverty. It is the system that puts premium on wealth rather than on human dignity that prevents the poor from rising up. If poverty is a choice, then that is made for them by those who want to maintain a large and vulnerable poor sector.

Jun Lit

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