This blog and other publications like it often raise questions like, “How do we inspire people to take action against poverty?”
The world has more than enough food to feed everyone and more than enough resources to provide clean water, clothing, shelter, education and health care for all. I firmly believe we can end poverty. So the question stands there as an elephant in the room: Why the inaction? Why do we not end poverty? Why does the average person not do more to help eradicate poverty?
I think ignorance causes the inaction.
We all know poverty exists. But many of us do not realize the extent of the problem. We do not realize how many people actually fall into poverty. We do not realize how much the typical family is at risk of poverty. We do not realize just how much widespread poverty does exist in places like the United States.
With 12% to 17% of people living below the federal poverty line at any given time in the United States, maybe many Americans can mistakenly think of poverty not as affecting society as a whole but as affecting some marginal other group of people. Many of us may mistakenly think of fighting poverty as charity rather than as an organized group effort to help ourselves. And that ignorance can make it hard for us to relate to the poor.
But let’s remember that over a 10 year period, 40% of people in the United States fall below poverty.1 And let’s remember that most Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between the ages of 25 and 75.2 And let’s remember even those numbers do not show the full extent of poverty because of the fact that the poverty line is drawn way too low, so the government does not consider many people poor whose incomes do not cover the true cost of living.
When we forget to remember those facts, we may fail to realize the extent of the problem and how much it affects us and people like us. And then we may fail to recognize coming together and fighting poverty as the smart thing to do. That’s what I mean when I say ignorance causes inaction.
Of course the problem exists not only domestically in the US but also throughout the globe. If we cannot end poverty at home even in places like the United States, we will not end it globally.
In my next blog post, I will come up with a series of questions that we can ask ourselves to help us relate to people currently caught by poverty and understand how much poverty actually threatens and affects those of us not currently living in poverty.
What do you think? Do you agree that ignorance causes inaction on poverty? You can post your comments and discuss this blog post in this thread at the Philosophy Forums.
1. Zweig, Michael (2004) What’s Class Got to Do With It?: American Society in the Twenty-First Century. ILR Press.
2.Hacker, J. S. (2006). The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: Oxford University Press.
Check out the followup to this blog post: Questions to Ask Ourselves about Poverty