The lie about poverty

Somewhere, a lie about poverty got told.

That poverty is mainly economic. And economic poverty is a problem that we must solve together. It is the primary problem, perhaps the only problem that we must organise ourselves towards.

Hence “Gareebi Hatao”. Can’t go wrong with that one.

In solving that one problem, we went on doing one ‘well-intentioned’ thing after another.

We piled on pesticides and fertilizers and GMO and cash crops into a green revolution. Only to find farmers still taking away their own lives, decades later.

We built big dams and roads but those became ways of stealing from the hinterland and distributing the spoils in the city. Those roads became ways for displaced people to come as refugees into cities.

We constructed measures like GDP and actively tracked them. We measured our economy in money terms, even though we knew that war, disease, divorce and disharmony all boost the same metric that we measure our ‘success’ by. We still live the lie.

I can go on and on about how this pursuit to eradicate econmic poverty has cost us on so many fronts.

And a part of me feels that some people knew and they lied. They sold this story knowing that they will profit if we buy into this lie.

We did — we bought into it.

And here we are. Economic poverty is at an all time low. People living under a dollar a day is reducing. Development is here — we have electricity, medicine, education and all that was promised.

And the number of suicides are growing. Obesity is on the rise. More people are dying out of over-eating than hunger. The planet’s dying. We’re so far from Nature. We’ve lost a lot and we’ve forgotten that often what counts cannot be counted.

It’s quite a mess and the greatest loss for us has been that of the sacred.

Sacredness, that part of life which capitalism cannot touch, commoditise, bottle and sell. The part of life that science can’t reduce to chemicals and equations. That, which is beyond reason and language.

Sacredness, which humbles us.

It’s been a raw deal sold to everyone, particularly for those who were experiencing economic poverty.

While that may have been reduced (even drastically), we have all paid with our communities, our access to nature and our capacity to have human-to-human intimacy.

It is time to remember that our culture was about the spirit, the spiritual and the material life was only a way to the infinite, to the sacred.

As we reclaim that, we will be able to put economic poverty as a problem in its right place. And we’ll be able to see what else got lost in the blind pursuit of riches.

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