People have varying opinions when it comes to poverty. Rich and poor alike have different definitions and descriptions as to how or what poverty looks like.
Poverty. It is the community filled with houses stack together made out of plywood, scrap plastics, and other light materials that shelter eight families in one roof which we pass by on our way to school, to work, to Church, to the mall, or to our own homes inside our guarded subdivisions.
It is the filthy mother and child covered in dirt who are wandering on the streets or in the underpass asking for alms and maybe a piece of bread.
It is a man getting arrested for robbing a store and stealing goods.
It is the lazy uneducated bastard who leeches from people who try to work hard and earn for a living.
Every single day we wake up and go about or daily lives taking everything as they are. Have we even asked ourselves why those people we call ‘the wretched’ or in Victor Hugo’s language Les Miserablés came to be what they are?
Whenever we talk about poverty it seems like we know the issue pretty well that we express our opinions like professional social analysts. I have observed how funny we (especially those who came from well-off families) sound like when we illustrate poverty and the poor as if we fully understand what it is like to live in misery– as if we already know.
I am guilty of my biases on the poor. It has been ingrained in me that the choices they made in the past placed them in such state. I guess my father’s constant reminder that, “If you spend all your money partying, ditch school and become a sloth you’ll surely end up in poverty”, conditioned my mind to believe that the unprivileged chose to be poor.
The problem with most of us is we already have an idea about those who are in poverty that prevents us from seeing who they truly are. We make them less of a person for we see them as different from our kind. We already put up a wall that separates us from them without even trying to experience what they are going through.
Often, we perceive the poverty stricken individuals as criminals or worse as someone evil. But have we even asked ourselves why they became one in the first place? Aren’t we, the ones in power and the ones who have the capabilities, made them look bad?
Isn’t it that the elites robbed them of fair labor rights simply because they are easily fooled since they didn’t undergo proper education? Have we been bothered that the reason why a hardworking employee stole groceries is because she doesn’t have enough money for the nourishment of her four children?
The poor aren’t really the bad ones. Who then? Ask yourself.
Numbers and figures give us some background of what is happening yet it doesn’t say much about the poor. Seeing is not enough, what we have to do is go down there and participate for us to truly grasp what it really means to be poor. It’s time to break the prejudice that we created.