What “Wokes” Fail to Get about Poverty

The “woke” social justice warriors do what they do because their assumptions about poverty and suffering on earth are wrong. My impression is that they are like the vegan “activist” who posted on social media (assuming they meant it) a message admonishing people to not slaughter animals for meat and instead buy from groceries – which reflects that they are ignorant of where food comes from. And even if the wokes know where food comes from, their ideas still tend to be angry, impatient and irrational. Wanting to overthrow government and capitalism are among the non-solutions they flout as solutions.

One other non-solution is forced sharing, or redistribution of wealth. it will not work because it does not address the root causes of poverty. It also looks for someone to pin the blame on for others’ poverty. It is also a gamble; you try to spread wealth in the hope that with greater wealth, people will no longer be poor. But wealth is something that is easily lost if you don’t know how to handle it, which has been proven with many lottery winners.

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The fatal assumption of the wokes is that poverty is always man-made, that people are poor because someone else made them poor, and one cannot be naturally poor. Their idea is, when someone becomes rich, their wealth automatically is stolen resources from someone else in the world. This is the driving force behind forced sharing and demonization of rich people. The problem is, that connection cannot been proven and is emotionally driven. It is also another exercise in scapegoating.

Inequality itself does not mean people are in poverty. People can be in a situation where their incomes are vastly unequal, but still they have enough for basic living. That is not poverty.

I’ll attempt to help demystify things by discussing my views about the two major categories of causes.

Manmade Causes

When it comes to causes of poverty, we GRP bloggers are quick to point to culture. Traditional culture included. India for example bans the slaughter of cattle for religious belief. The bad joke is that it’s a land of hungry people with cows walking around. Another is when cultures reject modern technology, saying it is against their identity. As a result, they are unable to maximize production efficiency for their needs. If a culture decides, being poor is part of our image, then that indeed leads them to poverty.

Slavery and exploitation are all part of culture. Headhunting has been part of many cultures, including our own. Certainly, business won’t thrive where the businessmen fear being literally headhunted (or when the tribal breadwinners were actually headhunted!). Tribalism also contributes to conflict and poverty, and that certainly applies to Filipinos.

Crap ideologies also cause poverty. A good idea is when China tried to apply redistribution of wealth under Mao, but their practices were completely inefficient and corruption-ridden, leading to a massive famine. When they switched over to allowing basic free-market business in their country, it lifted a lot of people out of poverty. At least that gives some support to the idea that capitalism does not cause poverty; bad decisions do. Really, if you want China to lose today, tell them to go back to the Communist way of doing things.

It also boils down to personal habits. Some people are poor because they have habits that keep them poor. They don’t want to work, they don’t want to feel hardship and they want to depend on others. The leftists hate the saying, “the poor are poor because they are lazy.” But there are poor who are lazy. So the hated saying is partially true.

Dictators don’t necessarily cause poverty. Dictators can also rise because of poverty, promising to beat it. Thus ousting dictators does not solve poverty, as lately proven in the case of Tunisia. Even with corrupt politicians put away, poverty can still happen. Also, with people’s attention on national dictators, they miss out the “little dictators,” the corrupt people at the grassroots level. Yes, even in poor communities, there are corrupt people. Why else would we have a crime rate at all?

Natural Causes

Poverty can be naturally caused (This can apply to other social problems, such as inequality and suffering). Life by nature is hard. Poverty is among the effects of the dynamics of physical existence. It is easy to stay in poverty because if you do nothing at all about your condition, you will remain poor. And people die even if other people don’t kill them. That’s why there’s something called “natural causes.” I believe the naive mindset of some wokes is that if someone naturally dies, someone still has to be blamed for it. If you get lost in a harsh land and die there, nobody else should be blamed for your death (Christopher McCandless anyone?).

In order to be able to drink or eat, and survive, you must take necessary action to gather the materials you need for it. Hence, people work. They must, and this is a phrase some hate, help themselves. Helping oneself is the natural state of life. Yes, there are circumstances where people are unable to help themselves, and that is where (voluntary) help from others comes in. But another assumption of the “forced sharing” advocates is that help is an entitlement. They also hate it when a person is just single and enjoying themselves, they want to force that person to help others by hook or by crook. But that is never assured of success, and forcing others to give can be a violation of human rights.

The environments people live in are a big factor. I read in Cracked (and this is a factual article) that the Pilgrims during the initial settlement of the United States had it easier than the history books would like to have us believe. Compare that to places like Africa and Yemen. Deserts and jungles are unforgiving, and people are certain to die because of a little mistake. People in these areas are perhaps the poorest in the world, and other people did not cause that condition.

In the Roman era, historians estimate that the child mortality rate was 75%. Many diseases we are familiar with today were seen as mysterious evil forces then. Travel far from your village or city, wild animals were all around to get you (or simply starvation… McCandless again). Wokes of the modern world have been spoiled with the relative safety and security of the modern industrial era, that coincided with advances with health and science, leading to the lower morality rates and population explosion of today. Convinced that their way of life should be the standard of the world, they try to force it on others… only to learn (and perhaps fall into depression because of it) that just because you think you have a great idea doesn’t mean that people are obliged to accept it or that it’s going to work.

Woke Knee-Jerk Reactions

When people react to seeing rich and poor, and get angry at the rich for not giving to the poor, they do so with poor understanding of the whole story. Their reaction is also a function of the desire to feel power by judging others. It satisfies the natural desire for violence, not goodness.

I’m not saying we should not try to alleviate poverty. But we should not overestimate our abilities in doing so. Just as discrimination is actually part of the natural dealings of people in society, addressing poverty cannot be understood without understanding its natural parts. There will be natural limits to our attempts to address poverty, and we have to accept them.

People in better-off parts of society should not carry the burden of the world. The idea that the rich are responsible for the poorness of others leads the wokes to believe that they are responsible for the poor and are obliged to do something about it. It’s not their fault, but they insist it is. And when other rich are not “giving to the poor,” they assume that attacking these rich will fulfill their moral burden. It won’t.

Let’s just accept that as much as we want to help others, it all goes back to people helping themselves. That will still be normal and natural. Let us stop seeing ourselves are “heroes” trying to save the world, and just live knowing what our limits are. And if we want to help in efforts to solve poverty, let’s stop looking for people to crucify.

19 Replies to “What “Wokes” Fail to Get about Poverty”

  1. “The Poor will always be with you.” from Jesus Christ in the New Testament of the Christian Bible….

    The causes of being poor or poverty are complicated. Some are cultural. Some are habitual. Some are inborn. Some are caused by the government. Some are caused by incompetent and crooked politicians… Some are from bad attitude and bad characteristic of people… or maybe it is their Fate, that people are poor…

    In the First World countries; there are many poor, there are also homeless people. In the Third World countries, like are own. There are too many poor. Homelessness is a part of life. Living around the garbage dump is a livelihood…

    A rich country like the U.S. , should not have poor people. But, there are poor people also, inspite of the existence of good job opportunities, and many resources of America…

    In 1907, in Czarist Russia; Vladimir Lenin overthrew the Czar Alexander II. And installed a Marxist Leninist communist dictatorship government. It led to dictators and those in power, living in excess luxury, while most of the poor masses lived in rationed poverty. Poverty was indeed distributed among the masses. There was no “Equality”, as the communist propagandists , have stated in their communist propaganda… There was vast Inequality, between those who were in power; and the common masses. Poverty was indeed rationed, thru long lines of food and basic necessities…Gulag Labor Camps were established for slave labor , for those who speak up against the communist regime. And the communist dictator , Joseph Stalin, murdered 30 million Soviets in his Labor Camps… Same was on China, Cambodia, North Korea and other communist countries.

    So, the Marx and Engel Theories of “Equality” and redistribution of wealth did not work in Reality. Communism is an illusion to deceive people. Like we were all deceived by the Aquino Cojuangco political axis on their EDSA revolution in 1986….or the Roman Catholic Church, emphasizing that being poor or living in poverty is being “Blessed”.

    We can debate until ” carabaos turn into a cows”, on what causes poverty, or being poor. We will never find the True Causes of why people are poor !

    1. It was in 1917, when Tsar Nicolas of the Russian Empire was overthrown by the Bolsheviks (communists)….It was not in 1907, and the Tsar was not Tsar Alexander II…

      Sorry for my mistakes…. It is a mistake…”To err is human, to forgive is divine..”

    2. It really boils down to the person.

      We’re inspired with “rags to riches” stories but may miss the point that it was the person’s determination to get out of the situation that started the process going.

      We’re appalled at the “riches to rags” stories and may still miss the lesson that somewhere in the process of the downfall there were bad decisions.

      I’ve heard of and seen people who remain in their situation because they did nothing (as an aside, the principle of insanity being, expecting a different outcome given the same course of action) and had a sense of entitlement (leading to laziness). But I’ve also heard of and seen people who did something about their situation and rose above it.

      Even the apostle Paul said, “If anyone does not want to work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10).

  2. I don’t know if “your problem is not my problem” attitude helps. If everybody adopted that attitude things would be far worse. Of course there are limits, but aren’t we made to overcome limits?

    1. I am not necessarily promoting that attitude, but there are times it becomes practical, such as when the other person’s demand is unreasonable. And I’m more against crucifying people just because they won’t make your problem theirs.

  3. Let’s just accept that as much as we want to help others, it all goes back to people helping themselves. That will still be normal and natural. Let us stop seeing ourselves are “heroes” trying to save the world, and just live knowing what our limits are. And if we want to help in efforts to solve poverty, let’s stop looking for people to crucify.

    Indeed. Why can’t other writers here think like you most of the time before writing.

    The knee-jerk reaction is not just getting angry at the rich, but the assumption that the rich SHOULD do this and that first. Then comes the rich-shaming, like as if shielding themselves from behaviors that they do not want to deal with is wrong.

    This type of thinking lead to the creation of collective rights, a marxist concept of building up to numbers to dictate privileges that would go to the said group.

    1. Benign0’s idea on opening subdivision roads wasn’t really a snipe at the rich, and I know he’s also against blaming the rich all the time. It was more something based on our understanding of policy, such as my assuming that all roads are public. And also, on more efficient use of public space. The idea was that some subdivision roads right run through from one end to the other and could provide alternate routes, so dead end roads with only one exit/entrance are excluded. But I know it’s more complex than that. I do agree with him that our current problems are mostly still a result of culture – as I mentioned in this article, too.

      1. I doubt that, ChinoF. Maybe his excuse is sufficient for you. But words and sentences have meanings. To declare it as a clear solution is downright lazy thinking in action (and the assumption of all roads are public is further evidence to that, IF he ever assumed that).

  4. Rich vs poor argument is pointless when there’s nothing new or no progress in the discussion. That’s what happens when you don’ t have your own understanding and you’re just judging and following from another’s possibly)defective lens.

  5. To drive home who the “rich vs poor” mindset is causing global problems:

    Wealthy nations are now being guilt tripped(by poor nations) to receive an unlimited number of refugees.

    Wealthy nations are now being guilt tripped(by poor nations) to abandon the best ways to produce energy because of global warming.

    Wealthy nations are now being guilt tripped(by poor nations) to spend more of its people’s money(taxes) on poorer nations.

  6. Another excellent, thoughtful essay ChinoF. Keep them coming.

    I observe the everyday poverty around me and wish I could do something about it (not least because their poverty creates a lot of nuisances for me), but I know I can’t. My neighbours live in poverty because they want to. They have a certain set of beliefs and lifestyle aspirations that, taken together, can have no other possible outcome except poverty – in fact those beliefs and aspirations are what defines poverty, not lack of money per se.

    I could explain them fairly how to be not-poor, but they’d just laugh in my face. What do I know about it? I’m a rich foreigner. I was born with a money-tree in my backyard.

  7. Somebody who has more capacity naturally has more “power”. Anybody is welcome to dispute this. But it’s not a one-sided responsibility, that’s for sure. . .

    1. No one, AS IN NO SINGLE INDIVIDUAL, was created with the sole purpose and responsibility to spend his/her resources for others EXCEPT FOR A TRADITIONAL KING/QUEEN/EMPEROR.

      You are welcome to dispute that.

      1. It depends on what resources we’re talking about. You’re right–no single soul can handle all the burden no matter how immense the passion to help. Somewhere along the way traditional royalty has lost its purpose.

  8. It’s hard to play hero on others who are in the same boat as you are, I mean, why will you take pity on someone when you yourself is in need of it, only when there is inequality you can play hero.

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