"Make Poverty History": History?

As a statement of intention, "Make Poverty History" is hard to argue with. And it has proven over the course of years to be a rallying cry for people concerned about poverty in our world, particularly in the developing world. 

Yet the concrete goals being set by this popular catchphrase are hard to pin down.  In a piece today in Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuits' online magazine, writer Ben Coleridge argues that "poverty" is inadequate to the issues before us. 

Advertisement

Poverty is not a one dimensional affliction. Communities enduring poverty are almost always torn by multiple afflictions, for example, ethnic or class discrimination or corruption. A person in a poor community may not simply suffer from a lack of primary goods (food, shelter, healthcare), but also from various forms of discrimination or poor access to institutional protection. In India, for example there are on average 11 judges for every 1 million people.

More fruitful planning and action, he suggests, might come by thinking rather in terms of "justice".  "By making 'justice' the stated goal of the 'anti-poverty' movement, success would be measured not only by material outcomes, such as  the quantity of aid delivered or the number of schools opened, but by the impact made on people's lives."

Coleridge's point is well taken.  We're dealing with complex issues here.  And slogans by definition simply in order to focus attention.

But we are imaginative creatures; for better or worse, catchphrases and images and video shorts are important means of capturing and motivating us, particularly in this hyperstimulated deluge of messages within which we live.  

"Make Poverty History" may in fact be history;  but we'll only be well served if we create something else to take its place.

Check out Coleridge's full piece here.

 

Jim McDermott, SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 3 months ago
It is said that the English word "Justice" is thin broth compared to the Hebrew word for justice, "tsedaqah".  It is roughly translated as the very heart of God.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Brother Alois Leser, prior of the Taizé ecumenical community in France, is seen before the encounter at the World Council of Churches' ecumenical center in Geneva June 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“We live in a world of competition, where you have to be the best. This pressure comes even from the families, from society,” said Brother Alois Löser.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 17, 2018
The tête-à-tête between Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi in Manhattan was like a documentary about a once-popular rock band. (Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography)
Speaking in a deep blue stronghold, the Democratic leader of the House calls for “civility” and cautiously hopes that she will again wield the speaker’s gavel in January.
Brandon SanchezOctober 16, 2018
The lecture provoked no hostile reaction from the students who heard it. But a media firestorm erupted.
John J. ConleyOctober 16, 2018
Though the current synod appears to lack the sort of drama and high-stakes debates of the previous two, the role of conscience appears to be a common thread.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 16, 2018