I first grew interested in understanding poverty at a young age when my parents would bring me to the big town and I would see so many beggars. They puzzled me. In the small farming and fishing town where I lived, I never knew of a beggar; everyone had something to do, somewhere to live, something to eat, and each had neighbors and friends and family who cared, no matter how much each struggled, at least as I remember it.
Fast forward three decades and I am still obsessed by the idea of poverty. While, in my youth, poverty was an idea easily represented by pointing out beggars, in my adulthood, I have come to understand it to be an idea that is much more complex and even more wide-reaching.
It is a reliable proxy for the many -isms that plague us, its multiple dimensions made quite clear to me in the graduate thesis I wrote. It is a painful reminder, a relic that reflects as it tethers us to the absolute injustice of the past. It is a pox not only on life as it is lived, but also on the human spirit as it finds its way and its voice.
No one dreams to be poor, but many among us accept it as a fact of our life. No one thinks it unsolvable, but many among us toss our hands high in the air in the throes of forced surrender.
I am driven to passionate action by it. I am driven to the ends of my stamina by the plausibility of mitigating it. I am driven to dream ceaselessly. I dream. I dream. I dream.
Poverty is an underlying force behind the disproportionate burden of climate change and health disparities faced by some groups. That these three are the results of how we treat each other is perverse and fundamentally inhumane. If we are anti-poverty, it isn’t just classism, gender inequality, and racism that we should fight against, but also the antipathy for at-risk and vulnerable populations. We cannot go on depriving millions of the health equity and climate resilience required in modern life. It is inhumane, immoral, to assign vulnerable communities the role of being the first to die, in greater numbers, and more often.