I spend most of my days right now thinking, writing, talking and musing on many issues surrounding education and development. Many of my thoughts are discussed in my book, but I also enjoy challenging my own thoughts by sharing and discussing with others. Thus here are a few blog-posts of my current thoughts on a few topics to share with you all. Comments, ideas, questions back are greatly encouraged J
To what extent has “Poverty” become a brand?
The term itself is, after all, a social creation; judged and assessed purely through fiscal comparisons. It is not a self-created identity, but a derogative imposed upon a person, community or country - a label that is given rather than chosen.
The branding of “poor” comes (according to the powers that be) when someone is “failing” to earn $2 per day – the global marking of a poverty level. Therefore, as a branding, it leaves little for a country or its people to aspire to other than fiscal development; ultimately tying progress firstly into dependence, then subsequently into a singular direction in order to lose the branding.
As a generalised label, “poverty” has almost served to create a categorised subspecies of humanity: people classified as failing in the game of life. For a community, a culture or a nation to be thus branded implies an inherent sense of failure; that somehow you are “failing at life” and therefore need to change your ways. Yet the branding only focuses on one thing: money. Poverty does not consider happiness, quality of life, emotional well-being, community engagement and support, skill-capacity, sustainability, growth-potential etc. It is simply a judgement of how much money somebody has in their pocket and endorses deep-seated assumptions of a lack of self-worth.
Here’s a question: If someone has an abundance of material wealth but houses no love in their heart, no joy in their soul, no happiness in their smile, are they not the ones that are Poor?
Current practices of poverty-alleviation through development have been modelled around a foundation of comparison; the construct of developmental aid infiltrating a psyche of superiority and inferiority across the world. If you have money (or the promise of it) you are a Success; if you don't, you are a Failure and dependent upon the Successful to help you to follow in their footsteps. Thus, in this system, one side is forever the loser. Everything within the processing of aid support-systems categorises progress through models of comparison: all of the diction surrounding development using terms of contrast, denoting one way as either inferior or superior to the other:
Rich versus Poor
Developed versus Developing
Modern versus Traditional
The First World versus the Third World
The West versus the Rest of the World
OECD versus the Rest of the World
Industrialised versus Emerging Economies
The Fortune versus the Bottom of the Pyramid
A psyche of western thinking lies behind many aid initiatives being infiltrated across non-western environments, yet the processing and infiltration of projects on the ground will never work in the same way they did for those setting the initiatives (for many reasons, about which I will write further anon). The problems of trying to homogenise evolutionary progress through a single-minded dictation of directional change is that it so frequently ignores the absurdity of an immeasurable comparisons of habit, environment or lifestyle; instead removing contextual fundamentals from the equation and focusing simply on one thing: Money.
Poverty is a branding that cannot be eliminated by The Poor; it is an assumed derogative put upon a nation from outside and, as such, leaves little room for manoeuvre beyond a reliance on aid to support growth; restricting its people to a subservient role and a permanent backseat position within the game of progress.
So how do we remove the branding?