When it stops [or maybe doesn’t even start] being about them.

A camera pans onto a young black girl from a perspective slightly above her. She stands alone in a field in an unnamed, unidentifiable location, looking away with a forlorn look on her face, never meeting the camera’s gaze. The voiceover: “This is Daniella. She’s nine. And her body is racked with pain from parasites; the same kind that killed her sister. Without help, Daniella could be next.” A single tear falls down Daniella’s face, as she now sits in a concrete doorway with no door, looking down. The opening paragraph from this article titled ‘Poverty porn and a new way to regard social impact‘ by Yasha Wallin. which poses some really great questions linked to the greater questions of short term missions trips and relief aid in general. Books like ‘When Helping Hurts’ and ‘Toxic Charity’ have recently drawn our attention to the idea that not all of the helpful things we attempt, may necessarily be helpful for those on the receiving end. This is accompanied by a similar article I came across via a friend of mine today titled ‘The ethics of photographing locals’ by Christie Long, in which she takes a closer look at the ‘tourism’ of poor people for the purposes of the Facebook status, the Instagram pic or the ‘Ooh, ah, you changed the world...

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penthouse (1024x683)

a view from the penthouse of privilege

This is a piece with a bit of a different feel, brought to you by the guy who calls himself The Ghetto Monk, titled ‘From the Penthouse of Privilege’. It begins with a very interesting discussion: finding redemptive value in our suffering that was set in a very unlikely setting perhaps: Fifty-one floors up. City Club LA. Beautiful view of downtown Los Angeles in the background. Freshly sliced oranges and strawberries alongside blackberries, blueberries and grapes. Wine, cocktails, and Hor d’oeurves.  Add to that the interesting context of the author being the only black male in a room of white people he describes as having enough White guilt in here that even a Florida jury would convict someone.  But read the rest of the article for yourself. The heart of what The Ghetto Monk is trying to express comes out of this paragraph here: Too often are poor and oppressed people (especially people of color) regarded as threats here in America, while poor and oppressed people in other countries are viewed as victims. This type of perspective is dehumanizing to people here and to people abroad. To overlook the problems here and to focus on issues elsewhere sends the message that poor and oppressed American’s problems are either insignificant, unimportant, or non urgent and at the same time it leads to the...

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The Uphill Battle of Escaping Poverty

A few weeks ago I posted a study discussing America’s low economic mobility – that is, why so many Americans born in poverty remain in poverty, despite working hard to escape it. Last week, the New York Times published an article examining the same issue. Utilizing both objective data and subjective personal narratives, Steven Greenhouse suggests that the face of America’s low wage earner has changed. Today’s low wage earner is older and better educated then their 1970s counterparts – both indications that workers today are finding it harder and harder to escape from poverty, despite finding employment, working hard, and earning educational credentials that ought to help them move up the socio-economic ladder. Recently, the conversation about work, the dignity of work, and the ability of workers to provide a better life for themselves has come to the forefront of the national conversation because of Paul Ryan’s recent comments about a culture of non-work existing in America’s inner cities. While his comments have received a lot of criticism concerning what exactly he meant by his comments and whose culture precisely he was indicting, to me the most troubling aspect of such debates in general is that they are built on the unquestioned assumption that if you just work hard, you can lift yourself out of poverty. Indeed, as Ryan contends,...

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Inequality, do you take Poverty to be your lawfully wedded bride?

The growing concerns of an increasing income inequality and a decreasing middle class are all but realized in today’s American society. With a slow and steady deviation the poor and the rich have found themselves farther apart than ever before. Why has this trend continued and what can be done to stop and even reverse it? A recent article entitled, “The Marriage of Poverty and Inequality” by Shamus Khan discusses the ability to end poverty and who is responsible for this. Khan discusses two points of view, first the attributionalist’s view in which states that the poor are poor because of their personal attributes (ie uneducated, low social skills, uncontrollable impulses, etc.) and that the poor are not the responsibility of the rich. The second view is that of the relationalist which believes the rich became wealthy off of the backs of the poor and it is therefore everyone’s responsibility to eliminate poverty. The article takes a very pro relationalist standpoint, claiming that, “the rich aren’t getting richer just because of their personal attributes; they’re getting richer because they’ve been able to appropriate the value created by others.” These claims, however, are supported by minimal facts but raise the issue, is there a right answer to this big question of poverty alleviation? Does the responsibility solely land on those...

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the church

Blessed are the rich [pastors].

I stumbled upon this article the other day which caught my attention: When Pastors Live in Multimillion Dollar Mansions, It’s not a Sign Of God’s Blessing – But Our Sinfulness and I imagine there are going to be a lot of people with something to say on that one. What is interesting is that the article starts in the slums of India where the author, Benjamin Corey, is literally being cautioned where to stand because, “This is where the children make their shit.” Even with a level of poverty that most Americans could hardly imagine, the people of Mumbai– the people of India in general– are some of the happiest and most generous people I’ve ever been blessed to spend time with. It is one of the many reasons I continue to go back and why part of my heart is always somewhere on a dusty road in India. In the Improv course I once took, the presenter said this about scenes, ‘If you are going to do a scene about a business meeting, start the scene with two old ladies knitting!’ – the idea being to start as far away from the story as you can and to see, as you are creating it, how the story gets there, which in improv is a huge part of the fun....

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