| A sad fact, which no country in the world we live in is free from, is that a vast majority of people suffers from poverty. This problem seems to be becoming increasingly serious day by day despite many efforts to do away with it. What is more interesting is that poverty exists amidst plenty.
"One poignant reality in contemporary experience," Edward Weisband observes, "is that, with each passing year, poverty engulfs many more individuals and families around the globe than those who become liberated from it despite increasing wealth throughout the world economy."
A person who suffers from poverty might have been less sad, angry and revolutionary if it had not been the case that poverty existed amidst plenty. The fact that poverty co-exists with affluence has made its victims not only sad but also angry with the larger socio-economic system that determines the kind of life they lead. Some of them confine their responses to poverty to their being sad. Some of them go beyond this sort of response to show another reaction to poverty--being angry with the socio-economic system that they believe is responsible for making them a victim of poverty. And, some go beyond even the second sort of response to raise arms against the socio-economic system.
The rich are morally responsible for solving the problem of poverty. According to one scholar by the name of Robert Chambers, the rich in general seem to ignore their moral responsibility to solve this problem. As he has put it, "If any of us had a sick or starving child in the room with us, we imagine we would do something about it. A child crying from pain or hunger in a room is hard to shut out; it pins responsibility onto those present and demands, impels, action. Yet we live in a world where millions of children cry from avoidable hunger and pain everyday, where we can do something about it, and where for the most part we do little. …. What is the difference between the room and the world? Why do we do so much less than we could?"
This statement would implicitly teach a great lesson to those who, despite their being able to help the poor, do nothing for the poor. Those who are affluent enough to do something for the poor must ponder over the question Chambers has raised. As one of the possible answers to that question, Chambers writes that, "The child is not in the room with us, but in Bihar, Bangladesh, the Sahel or a nameless camp for refugees, out of sight, sound and mind." Besides, he writes, "Selfishness is a powerful force. Putting one's family first seems natural and good, and 'charity begins at home' is a great let-out."
Chambers seems to assume that affluent people would do something for a child crying from hunger if they were in the same room as they live in. This has led him to say as one of the possible answers to the question his above statement contains that rich people do so much less than they could for the hungry child crying because, in his own words, "The child is not in the room with us [by 'us' he means a class of affluent people of which he is also a part], but in Bihar, Bangladesh, the Sahel or a nameless camp for refugees, out of sight, sound and mind." I do not subscribe to this view. The child is in the room with the rich. The world we live in today has been so globalized that it has become like a small room. Given a far greater degree of an interaction- be it social, political, economic, or otherwise- among the different countries that it is made up of, the contemporary world we live in seems as if it were a single, and small room.
Indeed, today's world may be rightly thought of as what Marshall McLuhan calls a "global village" in which, as one scholar has put it, "We not only know what is happening on the other side of the world but we can watch it live, as it happens". So, it is ridiculous to say that the child crying from pain or hunger in any part of the world is out of sight, sound and mind.
If it is true that the rich are, in general, kind enough to do something for the child crying from hunger or painful disease closeby, and if it is true that they regard the globalized world as "a single room where both the rich and the poor live as a member of the same family," they would do as much as they could for the poor. That they do nothing, or if they do very little, provides us with a basis for the claim that they, unlike Chambers' implicit assumption, are not, in fact, kind enough to do something for the crying child closeby. Being kind, a quality not all possess, is something independent of time and place. If we are really kind, then we are always and everywhere kind. Therefore, saying that the rich do much less than they could for the child crying from hunger because s/he is not in the room with them is no more than a pretext.
Today, we live in a world that has a socio-economic system that inevitably leads to the concentration of much of the total wealth in the hands of a few. Until such a system is replaced with its alternative, which is egalitarian, the problem of the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to remain something typical of the society we live in. Though the rich carry out their moral responsibility to help the poor to get rid of poverty by giving, if the exploitative capitalistic socio-economic system we live under remains unchanged, poverty, on the whole, will remain uninfluenced by this.
You must be logged in to add tags.
I take a deep interest in development and underdevelopment as well as in politics, especially in its relation to economics. Currently, I am undertaking systematic research, and intend to theorize about Nepalese development and underdevelopment from a socio-philosophical approach.
Biodiversity & Poverty D.Ramakrishnan
| Jul 19th, 2008
I am interested in Eco friendly development and assess it economically. Biodiversity rich regions are inhabited by the poor. They are in fact the conserve the biodiversity. I wish to assess the relationship. Issues of 'Inherent values vs Economic value' are of interest to me. There should be ethics behind Access to Biodiversity and Benefit sharing out of Bio- prospecting and
You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up
for free or login