Tag Archives: poverty

So I’ve Been Thinking About Things…Money

8 Oct

Today I have been thinking about money.  Money is a thing we use to buy the goods & services we need to conduct our lives.  Money’s value is implied not implicit.  There is nothing inherently valuable about a dollar bill.  We ascribe value/worth to that piece of paper based on our monetary system.  Then we take that dollar bill to the market place and the market says a dollar bill can buy “x, y, & z.”

How we attain money is through work.  Work is an exchange of labor, time, talent, skill, and energy for money.  Some people work for employers who make things.  Some people work for employers that serve the needs of others.  Some people work for themselves, managing small businesses that either produce goods or provide services.  Money is due compensation for work that is carried out.

Keeping in mind that money is due compensation for work that is carried out, how then do those who either cannot work or will not work survive in a world where money is required to purchase the goods and services needed for survival?  It makes sense that we should arrive at a collective, socially agreed upon solution for addressing the issue of those who lack the physical and mental capacity to work.  It likewise makes sense that we should arrive at a collective, socially agreed upon solution for those whose working efforts do not provide adequate resources for survival at no fault of their own.

But it does not make sense, to me at least, to make provision for those who simply are not motivated to work.  At the risk of sounding dispassionate, those who don’t or won’t work should realize that their refusal to be productive is not an issue of urgent social importance (ie: they are not entitled to any social supports on the basis of their refusal or slothfulness).  Socially, those who won’t work are choosing to live lives of poverty that a logical remedy exists for-get a job and go to work.  If they lack the requisite skills for employment I am entirely in support of providing opportunities for education and vocational training to assist would be workers in finding adequate employment.

To provide easy access to publicly allocated emergency resources, to those who simply refuse to work, is an abuse of society’s trust and it creates an abusive political environment from which emerges a class of people who embrace a way of thinking about work and life born in generational social dependency, rather than encouraging people to aspire to their full potential as human beings.  To me this is an abusive political policy that devalues the essential dignity and worth of a person.  But at the same time, supporting monetary policies that widen the gap between rich in poor in our society is equally egregious.  Disproportionate wealth acquisition is no less an issue needing addressed in our culture than the issue of paying human beings not to work, not to use their minds and bodies to their greatest potential, and not to engage in meaningful work for a good and fair wage (for another interesting viewpoint read Norman Pollack’s article, Maintaining the American Underclass).

We need money for survival.  Simply put, to buy the things we need something is traded in order to acquire the thing of necessity (food, water, shelter, transportation, other services).  How we access money, how we use money, how we care for those not in a position to acquire money on their own, and how we address people groups who are accustomed to receiving money from government service providers without an exchange of labor, time, talent, skill, and energy are questions related to monetary policy that have very important implications.

This viewpoint is a work in progress.  It will be added to and expanded by the views of others and through meaningful conversations with others who embrace different viewpoints.  I encourage those reading this to take the time to thoughtfully engage this topic.

So I’ve Been Thinking about…Things (Food)

3 Oct

breadforjourney.edd.10.21.2013

(I was writing recently and wanted to define what a “thing” is and further wanted to reduce my need for “things” down to the most basic necessity one needs for survival.  This is what emerged.)

A thing is an object of material substance generally considered useful.  Things can be utilitarian (their use is born out of necessity; serving a specific purpose and/or accomplishing a particular task) or they can be non-utilitarian (born out of the desire to consume, possess, or amass belongings, a luxury).

As I write it is my intent to discover for myself the things essential to my existence (ie: without which sustaining life would be impossible).  The most basic, most essential thing, that is both useful & necessary, is food & water.  Human beings must consume food and water to sustain their bodies with the minimal nutrition required for survival.

As a thing, food can be, as earlier defined, utilitarian or non-utilitarian.  Science teaches us that the typical human being needs a certain caloric intake on a daily basis to promote survival and in order to thrive and maintain basic health & well-being.  Eating foods that accomplish this minimal requirement would describe a person who has a utilitarian relationship to food.

Anyone who eats food for any purpose other than basic health and well-being has a relationship to food that is non-utilitarian.  Tastes, preferences, and quality of food served are all luxuries and not strictly utilitarian.

I must confess that my own attitudes about food are not always utilitarian.  I like foods bursting with flavor.  I like purchasing quality foods.  I enjoy making interesting dishes both tasteful to the palate and aesthetically appealing.  In confessing these things I am not admitting that these attitudes and practices are bad, but they are revealing.

What do my attitudes about food reveal?  They reveal a particular socio-economic bias that is not shared by people the world round, nor even within a fairly tight geographical radius of the place I live.  My relationship to food has been utterly shaped by and provides clear commentary on my access to food (ie: grocery stores bursting with options and the financial capacity to pay for it).  Again this is simply stating a factual reality it is not meant as a value judgement, per se.

Though, in reality, vast segments of the human population would find my definition of a utilitarian relationship to food a luxury in that their access to food and water, as basic necessities for survival and well-being, are routinely impeded by the political and economic realities present in the places they happen to originate from.  Recent statistics show that 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14 (source: U.S. FAO, September 2014).

This reality should impose on each of us a requisite period of reflection to consider our own relationship to food.  Allow me to suggest some questions for consideration: How do I view food?  What are my attitudes about food?  Do I feel I am entitled to certain types of food that others may not, at no fault of their own, have access to?  Do I care about this issue only for myself or am I aware of the need for food as an issue of justice & basic human equality?  Should governments get involved in international situations where people groups are suffering because of a lack of access to the food necessary for their basic survival and well-being?  Am I willing to have less so others can have more?

Food is a physical and communal necessity for every person everywhere.  It is an unavoidable necessity but one’s relationship to and attitudes about food (this thing we literally cannot live without) have global justice implications we often ignore, not wantonly, rather simply by omitting from our consideration the need others have for it on an equal basis.

The simple act of writing this piece has prompted me to action.  I am researching my community’s resources for people who are food insecure and striving to have a more robust understanding of the issue of food insecurity within my local context.  I am considering ways that I might get involved in serving the needs of those local resources and the individuals they serve.  Further, I am embarking on a process of intense personal reflection as it relates to my own food related attitudes and biases.

It is my hope that in some way, however small, reading this might prompt you to evaluate your own food attitudes & biases and likewise help you evaluate your role in addressing the local and global justice issues surrounding this “thing” we call food.

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