The Crush                                                                                         3-21-99
A current look at poverty
By Dale G. Cox

What is poverty. I think, deep down inside each one of  us is a different definition. Some more personal than others. A lot of people think poverty is a financial thing. This thinking reflects the ignorance of materialism, in not wanting to believe we are spiritual beings. Thus, revealing to us that our greatest enemy is not financial poverty, but poverty of the spirit.

Poverty can be defined as a lack, something we need but do not get. It is a personal experience. It is difficult for most of us to consider the anguish of a Florida alligator who's trying to find some cool mud on a hot they. It's condition is impoverished by a lack of appropriate water. In today's modern society it can be difficult to see what other people are lacking, as lack is a personal experience. It is easy to see if another persons lack is financial. The emotions are a different matter. Here again the restriction of materialism is evident. It would teach us that our feelings are connected to the physical world. They are not. Our feeling are connected to our spiritual experience. When one seeks to define ones feelings from the logical vantage point of the material world, one runs into complications. It seems logical, but our feelings sometimes contradict. We seek to ignore these feelings because they are not logical. We think we get away with it, but we don't. This contradiction of self, imbeds itself in the fabric of our psyche, like a stain, that grows bigger every time we try to ignore our feelings. Until it covers such a large portion of the fabric that we are, that we no longer recognize that we've changed. This is a result of spiritual poverty. Understanding that poverty is a layered experience is of key importance here. Poverty is not created by one event, it is the result of a chain of events. If we fail to observe the nature of all the events that occur in our lives, we miss the basic context of our spiritual journey. We are not here to be successful slaves. Each one of  is on our own spiritual journey. Thus, as a group we are also on a spiritual journey together.

In America, the materialist approach to life not only compromises us spiritually, it compromise us socially. We all carry within us an image of an ideal society where all people get along respectfully, treating each other with love and kindness. It is a place where we relax without the threat of hostility. Where materialism destroyed this is in the action of separation. By defining people along the lines of image and perception, a materialistic culture separates us even to the core of family. White racists see their model society as all white. African see theirs as all African. Texans see it as all Texans. Heterosexuals see it as all heterosexual. Republicans see it as all republican. This is all the product of spiritual poverty, that we all allow ourselves to the isolated as individuals. Individuality is also very important to our personal spiritual evolution, but that's another story. When we feel isolated as individuals in society, our society suffers, from an essential lack of unity or harmony. This is social poverty.

United we are stronger. Unity is the essence of culture. The actions of commonality amongst a group of people that identifies them as a group. Divided we are pitted against each other for recognition. The cultural concept of survival of the fittest degrades us to the level of animals. We are striving to be more. This concept does not promote the social harmony we all envision. Because we are deluded by the essence of materialism that seeks to make us happy with stuff . We try to promote such high ideals, but the nature of materialism usually turns that promotion into a form of abuse for someone else. Thus we often find ourselves doing harm when we set out to do good. Of course, personal perspective must take at least 50 percent of the responsibility for how we feel. Our reality is such that for every action there is a reaction. Reaction after reaction after reaction. We have been enforcing the notion of social poverty for centuries. War after war after war, until we all have an internal aversion to the concept of violence. So why do we still wage war?

To look at poverty, we must look at the an entire history of poverty. At first there was an emotional need that wasn't net, then eventually a social need, until the individual reaches a point one day and snaps. The weight of ones reality has become too heavy. It crushes the individual into something else. The plight of the African in America is a common example. Personal cruelty leading to social oppression, leading into years of abuse emotionally and economically. Until you have a people whose common harmony is anger. This was not an accident. It was done to the African people, brought here by force, as a result of the perspective of a group of people who often try to pass themselves off as good. When in truth, they suffer from spiritual poverty. Racism is a direct result of materialism. Even though our basic physiology is the same, because we look different we believe we are. We are all the same.

We look at homeless people, and feel no pity  for the circumstances of poverty that put them where they are today. We will never understand the specifics of war that crushed our Vietnam vets. No matter how close Hollywood tries to help us imagine we can. To be in the presence of a soul cleaning to life and then to cut that string, is a profound experience. One very difficult to understand from a material perspective. Our sensitivity to a person who doesn't seem to have the ability to deal with today's social conflict, is deadened by materialism. We all have to pay rent, there is no alternative except homelessness. This is social poverty. That we have come to expect this reality as the only valid way that we can survive as a group. The reason we allow it is because we ignore our own personal spiritual poverty. This gives us the foundation to ignore our social poverty.

Who can explain the circumstances that shape our lives. Why did that person cut us off in traffic? Why did  he/she leave us? Why did the rent go up? Why did the car breakdown? Why did I get fired? Why did someone break into my house? Why did my dog run away and get killed by a car? Why can't I focus in class? Why couldn't I look like her? Why couldn't my parents have been rich? Why couldn't my parents love me more than their careers? Why couldn't I have a father? Why won't my father just leave? Why does my father love me in such a cruel way? Why am I afraid to love? Why am I afraid to be loved? The landscape is endless. The answer to the question is within us. This landscape is us. It is a direct result of our actions. Our actions are an expression of our own personal poverty. This poverty will not go away until we accept it and embrace it as our own. Until we realize it is us, and began to use our power of choice to change it. Having an image of how things could be is half that problem resolved. Now all it takes is choice and action to make it real. May we all choose to end true poverty in our time. Peace.