Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An article for Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

This is an essay for Blog Action Day

Poverty as defined by your circumstances.
As children growing in India, we were always of the fact that poverty was all around. The haves and have nots lived side by side. The minute you step out the door it right there staring at you. We learned from a very young age that it is not a guarantee that we'd get anything and everything we asked for. It still had not become a use and throw society. Blatant consumerism had not caught on yet. India today is a vastly different in terms of consumption but still the majority of people do live below the poverty line and not something that can be easily hidden.

Contrast this to my kids growing in the US. Poverty is not something that is obvious unless you live in a city like Washington DC or Baltimore. More often than not we avoid areas in these cities where poverty would be obvious since they are also the same areas too dangerous to afford a leisurely stroll. The only way we ever wound up in those areas is to have gotten there by mistake. Lots of people pass a lifetime not knowing what poverty feels like. School children walk for the homeless and collect money or school supplies for kids who cannot afford them, but I am not sure the kids can visualize and realize what poverty feels like - not able to afford three meals a day or having a proper place to live. Hunger is just one aspect of poverty, the other indignities it affords I am sure are many.

Be Informed of your elective representatives actions
The pictures and programs about India never fail to mention the fact that poverty is everywhere and it cannot be hidden whereas in the US since it is not visible poverty is not something that people talk about. Watch the Presidential elections the 'P' word has not been uttered by either of the candidates. Since it is not obvious those in power (read Congress, President, Senate, the local governments, state governments, etc.,) find it easy to cut programs for the poor, out of sight, out of mind. In the western world and among the rich countries, US has the highest rate of poverty with recent census figures putting the numbers at close to 40 million. But there are several conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation who still quibble with the definition of poverty giving one more reason for those in power to completely ignore it or sweep it under the carpet. Welfare queens are the ones who get all the press and harming million others who are struggling to make ends meet. What is the responsibility of a president who wages war against a country under false pretenses when the money spent here at home would have made US a much safer,secure and saner place to live, economically speaking?

What has greed got to do with it?
Poverty is not a genetic condition, it is absolutely possible for anybody to contract this dreaded disease. In today's troubled economic times it is even harder for non governmental and charitable organizations to effectively do what they set forth to do. With the next economic crisis just around the corner, it is nota far fetched idea that for a log of middle class folks, staring at poverty is just one pay check away. Without the bold intervention of the government it is almost impossible to eradicate poverty and in a society that does not understand, saving for a rainy day it is that much harder.

Studies have shown that while the pay for the wealthier Americans has risen the pay for the lower wage workers keeps going further down sinking several more people into poverty. We have all read about and seen the vast gulf between the rewards that the CEOs give themselves and how they think they are entitled to huge payoffs even when their companies are failing spectacularly. These CEOs are unashamed to take bonuses and keep their golden parachutes intact even while they get handouts from the government. I don't get it. If I screw up I end in poverty, if the Exxon Mobils and AIGs of this world screw up the government bails them out. There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture. Where is the accountability?

Will the lawmakers make policies that will keep these CEOs who run public companies in check? Somehow I doubt it. The Congres and the legislative branch of the government is as corrupt or even more corrupt than some of these CEOs. Though studies suggest that the lower strata of society benefits when the Democrats are in power. I am cynical about either party doing the right thing!

In parting here is something to think about,
As someone who considers Washington D.C home, I take strong offense to politicians talking about DC in such derogatory terms. If it is such a bad place why do they fight tooth and nail to get here? I know that is rhetorical question! But please when you elected officials land in DC step out of your Watergate hotels and go around the city to take in how the common folks live.

I know I have a lot of questions but answers for none and that is precisely what makes me so scared. What can I as a food blogger do about it? Moreover what can I do as a citizen of the US?
Blog Action Day website has ideas and suggestions on what individuals can do.

Sustainable Living
The way we shop and source our food here in the US can affect the lives of poor farmers in far flung regions of the world. Supporting stores and companies that take sustainable food practises seriously and being aware of the path that food takes to reach your plate is one of the ways to participate in protecting the livelihoods of farmers and food producers half way around the world. Food sufficiency is vital to the well being of the world and is the first and foremost to tackling Poverty. Being interconnected as we were nobody is immune to the vagaries of climate, food shortage and availability of food. Availability of fresh water is also going to be a big deal. Like the saying in Tamil goes "small drops of water are what make a ocean" each one of us have the parts that need we need to play cut out for us. It is urgent and it has to start now.


  1. So many questions.... so many things that need immediate attention... so many to do...

    I'm proud of you for raising your voice in this blog action post.

  2. Good Idea to have such things in blog. u inspired me :).

  3. Very well said and aptly put. These thoughts cross my mind many times and the recent turn of events in terms of CEO accountability for the mess that they have created just makes me mad and sick. All our hard earned money has just evaporated for no fault of ours.

    Also in regards to the poverty and what we have been exposed to I feel that we have a deeper sense of tolerance compared to so many others. What was considered a luxury for us, is a part of everyday life here.

    Another question that bothers me is how do we raise our child with that feeling of contentment and tolerance and not just overindulge?


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