“How I would love a Church that is poor and for the poor!” –Pope Francis

When I heard what name Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had chosen for his Papacy, I smiled and thought: “How fitting.” Francis. While I am not Catholic (although I did go to a Catholic college) my favorite saint is Francis of Assisi and I knew without even watching this video that that was who his inspiration was.

Saint Francis (Francis of Assisi or San Francisco for my latino amigos) lived a luxurious life during his adolescence but slowly began to see his love of money, luxury, and beauty was his biggest downfall. He started giving everything he had away or disposing of it anyway he could. He slowly gained followers and they took up the passage Matthew 19:16-26 (the story where Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to sell everything and give to the poor) as their adage. Saint Francis served the poor from then on.

While Latin America holds the largest percentage of the Catholic population with 39%, or over 425 million of the world’s Catholics living there, it also has about 167 million people living in poverty. This number is also significant as it marks the lowest level of poverty in Latin America in three decades. Pope Francis lived in Latin America during a time where the continent had some of its biggest struggles with class and unequal distribution of wealth. He has seen first hand the devastating affects that poverty can have on people and society and during his time as a Cardinal there he chose to live alongside the poor rather than above them just as Saint Francis had done. I suspect this will be his approach to his papacy as well.

¡Viva el papa de Latinoamérica, el papa de la pobre!

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How Poverty Affects Everyone, Even the Rich

One of the most frustrating things about the issues of poverty and social justice is that often times it feels like no one really cares. Sure many people may hear a statistic or see a picture of a hungry baby and feel sad, but they usually carry on with their day virtually unaffected. Or worse yet, they are confronted by a homeless person on the street and they hand them a couple bucks or some loose change in the hope that that will appease them. In the hope that they will disappear. They refuse to engage them, hear their story, acknowledge that they are human, and they especially try their hardest not to think of them again. They are part of the scenery of a big city, not people, just ugly, moving statues that for some reason terrify those who are more fortunate. Why is this?

I believe there are many reasons why, but one of the main reasons is that it either doesn’t affect them or they refuse to believe that it affects them. Many rational and intelligent people can see that certain issues, if they don’t affect them now, can affect them in the future, making those issues easier to take up. Causes like cancer awareness/research, environmental issues, domestic violence, etc while all noble, are to varying degrees tainted with the threat that it will affect the person intimately at some point in their lives. Rarely do people (in the US especially) see poverty affecting them intimately until it is too late. That is because wealth (or perceived wealth) is the cultural norm and it is thus revered as a fulfillment of our constitutional obligation to the pursuit of happiness.

Poverty is also ignored by the masses because it means that people have to care and get emotionally involved. They know it is easier to keep emotions at a platonic level so that their lives can remain unchallenged and thus unchanged. Change means being uncomfortable, or worse yet, could lead to pain and most people (especially in the West) do everything to avoid discomfort. They keep their eyes down, keep their slippers at the edge of their bed, buy and install electric towel warmers in their bathrooms, start their cars from indoors to warm it up on a snowy day, and most tragically, they have refused to talk about the issues that really matter.

Quickly, however, this obsession with comfort creates a numbing effect. Because people can no longer feel pain or discomfort, they can no longer feel joy and connection. As Brené Brown said in her TED Talk: “You cannot selectively numb emotion.” Furthermore, when people seek to numb their emotions they end up numbing the most human part of themselves. Thus it is imperative to understand that when people refuse to take on the burdens of others and become emotionally invested in their stories, they are not only denying those “others” but also denying their own humanity.

By Darwinist, originally posted here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/darwinist/23092205/

Thank you to Sandra of About All That Matters for posting this! It is a really great visual for the unequal distribution of wealth in this country.

About all that matters

This is a great 6.5 min long lesson on inequality. Nothing new, but good visual presentation of data. A little warning: it may cause a bit of anger or depression..

 

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Poverty’s Complexities

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Poverty is a very complex issue and that is what makes it difficult to combat. For that reason, I am writing this post to quickly address what the issues surrounding poverty may include so that if I talk about these sub-issue later on, it is understood in that these are not coming from left-field, but are relevant to the topic of global poverty. The problematic issues include:

  • Agricultural Subsidies
  • Globalization
  • Gender-Inequality
  • Corruption
  • Racism
  • Zero-Sum Game/Fallacy
  • Education
  • Health -Venereal Diseases, Malaria, Obstetric Fistulas, etc
  • Ecological Health
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Food Scarcity/Surplus
  • Hierarchy
  • Charity
  • Foreign Aid

And of course a few solution-oriented (and slightly less tangible) issues that I’ve touched on already in this blog:

  • Ingenuity
  • Creativity
  • Risk
  • Choice
  • Freedom (from and to)
  • Cooperation
  • Compassion

For more information on the problems surrounding the issue of poverty (and ideas on how they can be solved) I recommend checking out this website: http://www.povertycure.org/issues/ and/or watching the DVD series: “Poverty Cure.”

Poverty Cure was created by the Acton Institute -an economic think-tank in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This campaign conducted a solution-oriented look at global poverty and empowers not only those who are impoverished, but also those who may not be and are concerned about poverty. In the words of my friend Matthea who worked on the project: “It makes you feel proud to be a human!”