Thursday, June 18, 2009

Protection from Poverty

This is the big fear that corporate capitalism holds over our heads: if we don't follow the rules, we might become destitute. People actually talk about how many pay checks they are away from poverty.

Betsy Leondar-Wright (in her excellent book, Class Matters) defines people in poverty as: "A subset of working who chronically can't get income sufficient to cover all their basic needs."

She goes on to cite the following as 'signs' of poverty:
* Substandard housing or homelessness
* Long-time use of public benefits, such as welfare, or charity
* Chronic lack of health care, food, or other necessities
* Frequent involuntary moves, chaos, and disruption of life

I hope that this makes it very clear that simple living (see my post of 9/24/09) is not the same as poverty. You can live very simply and not be poor. Poverty is about not being able to meet your basic needs.

In a sense, this whole series is about protection from poverty--that is, being able to meet all our real needs. Money, contrary to what this society teaches, isn't one of those needs. If you are or can meet most or all of the needs I've been listing, you aren't poor.

Unsurprisingly, to anyone who has been following this blog, I think that community is a better protection against poverty than money. The more we share, the less each of us needs, and the more we can support each other.

In an early post (7/8/08) I talked about Participatory Economics, as well as Starhawk's overview of what we would need from a good economic system. As I've read more and participated in more things and surfed the further reaches of the internet, I've found other interesting economic systems. Two that stand out are Solidarity Economics and the 'Gift Economy'. Whatever you think of these approaches, they make it clear that our present economic system is far from the only game in town.

The important point is, that as we think about our needs (about everyone's needs) and how to meet them, we are thinking about how to create a world without poverty, a world where no one will have to worry about poverty.


Resources:
Common Security Clubs--An attempt to create economic security through mutual aid and local action; they begin with facilitated study groups that then can go off on their own
Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, Your Money Or Your Life--A program for achieving financial independence that deals with the way that consumerism ruins our lives and the earth and advocates nine steps to increase financial security; Vicki Robin is now involved with the transition movement (I blogged about Transition Towns on 10/16/08), I was just at a meeting where she was the guest speaker
Parecon--An extensive website for the Participatory Economics model; see my post of 7/8/08 for more details
Starhawk, Webs of Power--Contains a chapter on "What We Want: Economy and Strategy for the End Times" which has her views on how the economy could create security and abundance
Time Banks--An attempt to get beyond using money as people trade services with each other; this is a growing, world-wide movement

Quote of the Day: "Money was once a tool, not a commodity. We created money to facilitate the exchange of goods, an exchange that could be accomplished any number of ways. Gradually, though, money has become one of our main measures of worth. ...we have traded webs of relationships with communities, places, and the Earth for the transient search for the dollar. ... We have become commodities to be bought and sold. If we lose whatever money we have, we truly are destitute; we have nothing to fall back on.
"But ... if we can relearn our place and purpose, we can begin to assuage our fear and to see new possibilities." - Susan Meeker-Lowry

2 comments:

SoapBoxTech said...

We're close to seeing a huge number of poverty-stricken elderly folks here in North America.

MoonRaven said...

Good point. While I want to see a world without poverty, the current and coming economic crises are likely to result in many more people being poor.