Friday, December 15

Can wars eliminate poverty? If not, what can?

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“Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our time–times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation–that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”

Nelson Mandela

From the earliest of times, man has searched for happiness and joys in rather desperate circumstances. His search for shelter, for food, for prosperity all stem from his need to find protection. This can be termed as man’s biggest weakness and perhaps, in other circumstances, his sole comfort.

Man’s quest for life’s greatest pleasures and luxuries often becomes the sole aim of many of his greater preoccupations. We see that his choices in life are mostly and at large defined by how he wants to spend his life and in what degree of comfort. Man’s greatest pleasures and joys and his greatest miseries root just out of this; the quest for a comfortable life.

Many have said with great emphasis and this phrase of ever-lasting impact has gained momentum with time that every creature on this land of blood and honey is fighting a desperate war of survival. Paying attention to this rather hostile statement that tends to answer one of the greatest questions of all times would prove that not a speck of falsehood lies in it.

The early hunter suffered grave shortages of food during the winter season. He spent the five months of winter in a desperate struggle for survival. Unavailability of the simplest of things meant not just hunger but in worse circumstances, death. As times passed by, man grew strong in his own domain. He fought hunger and illness with varying techniques which grew stronger as his instincts gained strength. Man built a concrete wall of defense for himself and his family that not only ensured survival but also, with passing times, a fleeting sense of comfort and luxury.

In today’s age of ever-growing science and technology, it will not be an over-statement to suggest that man has undergone a complete evolution in to something perhaps, beyond comprehension. In just the last century, man fought two world wars with nothing but disaster. What could come out of these two great wars? We see that there was a waste of money, time and most importantly, loss of human lives/ We see that wars like these led to disaster on such a large scale that a century later, the impact has not washed away. We see that countless men lost their lives and left families back home dying with hunger and fighting a desperate war for survival. We see that the areas in which these wars were fought turned to deserts, producing no crops for the local inhabitants. We see that the inhabitants were often forced to migrate, only to move with an enchanting sense of unhappiness, loneliness, grief and an uncertainty of what would come next.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are biggest examples of disaster through and through. Those killed include a surprisingly large number of civilians and locals. Baghdad, which had been a tourist hub once, was reduced to shambles by years of fighting. Iraq was forced in to stone-age by decades of war on issues that had no sound foundation.

It will not be wrong to conclude that wars can never eliminate poverty. They only aggravate it. War is not the solution to the problems of humanity. It is, in fact, a problem soaring high over the existing ones. What we need today is to direct all our resources and energies in making sure that no child ever sleeps hungry. We must pay attention to this. For if we will not, we are imposing upon ourselves a condition of war between the rich and the poor. And let me tell you that out of all the wars that have been fought to date, this will be the one with the worst outcomes. As Muhammad Ali very rightly states,

Arthur Hopcraft of the Guardian said of starving children after visiting a nutrition centre in Kenya, “They are the children whose eyes stare as if blind, whose legs and arms are like sticks of liquorice, who neither cry nor laugh and who weigh 10 lb at the age of two years!”

Talking of poverty, it is not just the shortage of food. It is the lack of every sane thing needed for proper growth and prosperity. A poor man kills his desires, his instincts and his dreams in order to secure for himself and his family just a piece of flat bread. It is what barely keeps him going. We must strive for a condition where this can be stopped. His son must not kill his dreams to earn bread for his family. As David Bornstein said,

The issue of poverty is, by no means, a small one. But little steps, I believe, are always the stepping-stone for a large act. Some pennies out of our fat wallets can satisfy the hunger of a family for some time but not for eternity. The only possible and feasible solution to fight this menace is not to provide the poor with money but with education and literacy so that they can come up to the world and fight a war that kills them from the inside each day. Education alone is the sole solution to the problem of poverty. This alone will ascertain happiness, well-being and a sweeping elimination of poverty.

I will conclude by saying again that poverty can be eliminated by us all if we try. Our biggest weapon in this war is our will to pass on something precious that we have. We must teach and impart education to all those who cannot afford it. I am sure that if we do this, we will be fighting this menace with a weapon strong enough to eradicate it. Million dollar funds can ensure the survival of some kids for perhaps a few years but a few pennies spent on the education of some kids will save them and their families for a lifetime and perhaps for generations to come. Directing the money that nations blindly spend on wars to the education of man is the only solution that we have if we intend to fight the only war worth fighting; the war against poverty.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” NELSON MANDELA


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