Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 -- Poverty

I guess this would be something of an uber-meme: Visit Blog Action Day 08 to see how bloggers around the world are writing today about the topic of poverty.

And how appropriate today's topic is in the United States as third quarter 401(k) statements start hitting mailboxes. Or, as one wag in the courthouse put it to me just last week, as the market was shedding hundreds of points per day, "How's your 101(k)?"

But this exercise is not for Baby Boomers to whine about their now-insecure futures; the prompt is meant to inspire reflection on the subject of real poverty.

Solving global poverty does not mean throwing taxpayer dollars in increasingly large amounts at, for example, African dictators. Too often, the only ones who benefit from these large-scale programs are the dictators, their immediate family members and cronies, and their Swiss bankers. Microcredit lending schemes and good, old-fashioned missionary schools have worked far better at improving the lot of those whose lives are directly touched by these programs.

One may question the wisdom of $100 laptops to unite persons in isolated communities with the larger world -- but not when those laptops bring agricultural instruction and access to markets. Cellphones can serve this purpose as well. The development of cheap and practical ovens that work on solar radiation -- eliminating some of the need for firewood (or charcoal) in stressed rain forest regions -- is inspirational.

The tricky part, of course, is to avoid causing unintended harm to the people one is trying to help. To help the world, one must learn about the world. I know I'm only a beginner student in this sense, but some of the 'textbooks' I use regularly to help me understand more about the whole world in which I live are The Wilson Quarterly, Smithsonian Magazine, and that old stand-by, the National Geographic.

1 comment:

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

In 1967-68 I was in the US Army stationed in Ethiopia. I was earning $326 (pre-tax) per month and thought that I was living in Poverty.

Then I saw the rural Ethiopians that were making about $40 US per year (less in drought years). I was a rich man.

In one small village we built a windmill to help them get water for their crops. We would pitch in and buy them food from our on post commissary (technically a no-no). We also gave them blankets (it got cold in the mountains at night), mostly stolen from the base laundry, plus clothing that we were going to discard.

From what I understand it has not gotten much better there in the last 40 years. That’s Poverty!

The Beach Bum