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I am not comfortable with the usage of the word "poor" in this thread.  Everyone is talking about ownership of things, things they want (let alone things they need) as some kind of indicator of poverty (the condition of being poor.)  I think this illustrates a misunderstanding of what poverty, being poor, means, though I think you all do understand, so maybe a wrong turn in the conversation is a better explanation...

From Wikipedia:

One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.

Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.

In 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day

800 million people go to bed hungry every day.

And perhaps more relevant to my concern:

The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor" [12], based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people consider elements of poverty. Most important are those necessary for material well-being, especially food. Many others relate to social rather than material issues.

precarious livelihoods
excluded locations
gender relationships
problems in social relationships
lack of security
abuse by those in power
dis-empowering institutions
limited capabilities, and
weak community organizations.

To answer your question "do we have to get poorer in order to change this?" No, but being poor(er) is not the same as having less/not as nice stuff.  Perhaps we do have to dramatically reassess our needs and create a better understanding of what poverty and wealth are.  And buy less stuff.  And redistribute wealth.  But that need not precipitate our poverty.

Also worth noting, a growing number, at least in America, who are wealthy by most of the world's standards and who have a lot of stuff, are experiencing the psychology of poverty and several of the accompanying factors listed above due to lack of affordable healthcare.  Poverty is about freedom more than about posessions.  And being sick and unable to get treatment or being in overwhelming debt as a result of illness does in fact take away a person's freedom in a way that taking away their stuff does not.

Also, I have one more gripe.  All this talk about unskilled masses.  You are referring to a certain set of skills.  People all over the world living in poverty have skills; we just don't value them because they don't efficiently make someone somewhere gobs of money.  You may argue that they are outdated, but farming, raising families, teaching, being an artisan, community leader, etc etc etc require a lot more skill than we are acknowledging.  They just are not boons to capitalism.  And many jobs which are require hardly any skill at all.  Though certain skills are required for certain employment, "skill" and "employment" are not implicitly connected.

OK, I don't mean to derail this otherwise interesting conversation.  I was just perplexed by what I was reading...  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 02:44:47 PM EST

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