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The Reality of Poverty in 2005

Folks, we live in an extremely small bubble, most of us completely unaware of what the real world is like. For example, a few years ago Internet penetration in the United States was at less than 30%. Globally, phone penetration was equally small. Yet I'm sure most of us couldn't consider living without those "necessities". Those of us in the "industrialized world" live lives that most in the world would consider opulent, if not sloven. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to realize what the world is really like. I got one of those slaps in the face a few minutes ago. It came in the form of statistics about global poverty. Here they are:

  • At least 8 million people die in the world each year because they are too poor to stay alive.

  • Nearly half of the 6 billion people in the world are considered poor. Eek

  • This doesn't include those who are in fact poor, but who live outside of the $1 per day definition of extreme poverty. Eek

  • Almost half of the African continent lives in extreme poverty.

  • In 2002, the United States gave only $3 per each sub-Saharan African.

    Source: United Nations Millennium Project

    This makes me physically ill. It is amazing to me that we can consider ourselves to be an evolved and modern society, yet we allow the world to be ravaged in the way that it is by poverty - which could be stopped. I know we have problems in our communities to solve and that there is poverty right here in America, but it just seriously pains me that so many people are suffering so greatly.

    Do we (Western society) have any sense of morality at all about our fellow man? How can we sit in our houses, drive our SUV's, and get fat while most people on Earth are a meal or two away from starvation? sad

    To be clear, I am not attacking anyone here. I know the vast majority probably share my shock at these statistics. But conceptually, do we have any responsibility to humanity about this? As Americans, the greatest consumers and exploiters in the world, do we have any responsibility toward "the least of these"? As African Americans who have experienced oppression and poverty more than others here, do we have any particular responsibility to do something about this issue; or, should we just focus on poverty in our communities and let the world resolve itself? Is it OK for us to enjoy whatever trappings of the middle class (like computers even) that we have while also being sensitive to what's going on in the world? How do we rationalize our personal desire to provide more for our families and to "do well", with awareness of the condition of most on our planet?

    Your thoughts?
  • © MBM

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