Ironically, during the first five minutes of my Developing Countries course in grad school, I was greeted by a classmate who said: "You're the guy who is too cheap to buy the new Microsoft!"

In preparation for class, I had just spent three days reading nearly 500 pages about social inclusion, forms of poverty (including psychological), and how to empower the poor to overcome such barriers. Yet within minutes I myself was experiencing the same stereotypes, attitudes, and barriers in my class and homeland that the poor face throughout the world daily.

The fact I'd rather give my money to poor, homeless ladies on the New York subway rather than Bill Gates did not matter. I need to be able to access files online to pass my class (which costs $4,500 by the way) and many student files being uploaded online are in 'docx' format. The Professor however is a super kind man, who went the extra-mile to upload his documents in both formats 'docx' and 'doc' for me.

I, the poor, ostracized outcast have no such software on my computer at the moment to access and view 'docx' files, only 'doc' files. Thankfully however some friends on Facebook told me about an 'openoffice' website / program, which hopefully I can figure out.

Nevertheless lacking a bit of emotional motivation going into this semester, I suddenly found fresh fire to fuel my passion onward - anger and righteous indignation! If I in 'the home of the free and brave' could be spoken to and excluded in a graduate level academic setting for which I am paying to be enriched professionally and personally to help the poor throughout the planet alleviate poverty, God knows the harsh treatment everyday people in the real world face daily in society.

One example below provided in one of my assigned class readings mentions a situation in India, a country I have both lived in and traveled throughout on five tours.

What you will find by the excerpt from the article below is personal self-esteem inwardly and being accepted socially means more to the children of India than the quality of food they put in their body.

Thankfully I have a good dose of self-esteem to be able to endure the harsh criticism and cruel remarks of my classmates, but academically 'the system' seems to be set up at the moment to exclude people like me who don't want to further enrich Bill Gates.

And we wonder why the 'experts' have a difficult time alleviating poverty. Often it is the 'experts' going abroad to help poor countries that drive up the cost of real estate for the poor in the very countries they seek to serve. Afghanistan is just one case in point.

It is experiences like these that enable me to experience a degree of the pain, rejection, social exclusion, human disdain and disregard that the poor (and poor children) battle with worldwide on a daily basis.

Deepa Narayan and Patti Petesch speak of individual assets and capabilities, among which are mentioned social belonging, a sense of identity, self-esteem, self-confidence, and ability to imagine and aspire to a better future.

Narayan and Petesch have proven through studies with Indian school children related to caste labeling, stereotypes and associations "the importance of social, political, and psychological influences on agency."

Know this, the poorest person in the world is NOT the person without dollars, euros, yuan, or rupies (or the new Microsoft Office software, Apple I-phone, or I-pad - none of which I currently posses, but would happily receive if gifted to me). The poorest person in the world is he or she with no dream and no dogged determination to push through the negativity, prejudice, and cruelty of others dished out to them daily in society.

As for me, maybe I am too cheap, or fiscally unwilling to keep dishing out my money to Bill Gates. Who knows maybe I can continue to avoid having to buy the new software program. For now I'm trying, but as for the rest of the 'bottom billion' (Collier) living on less than $1.25, they might never be able to purchase any Microsoft gear for their computer.

Yet that should not hold them back if they have the desire, dream, and discipline to break the economic barriers that hold them back. And as for us who create such barriers, God help us have a heart to see where we are erecting such and excluding people around us. Surely I and many of us have been guilty of this at some measure, somewhere in our lives. Therefore some added sensitivity is useful to help us empower people to break the barriers that hold them and the societal trappings that quickly grab hold of we ourselves.

For this reason I continue to lift up my voice throughout the world to empower the hopeless, emotionally bankrupt, discouraged, and downcast who feel and experience psychological poverty which traps and contains them economically.

Dare to Live Your Dreams!

Poverty, Caste, and Migration in South India

T. Scarlett Epstein

Policies intended to reduce poverty often fail to do so because they reflect the perspectives of policy makers and not the realities of the poor. I illustrate this by looking first at India’s food distribution program, the largest in the world, and at misplaced attempts to improve efficiency by moving from a universal to a targeted program. This experience points to the need to understand the complex social hierarchies and status distinctions that operate within communities that analysts broadly characterize as “poor.”

Poverty as Perceived from Above and Below

Experts who deal with poverty reduction at the macro level often seem to make assumptions about the poor that are far removed from realities on the ground. For instance, they tend to assume that the poor constitute a homogeneous

entity. In real life, of course, poor people are a heterogeneous lot composed of individuals and groups whose struggle for survival often forces them to compete with each other for access to limited opportunities and resources.

They come from different cultural backgrounds and have different needs and aspirations. Administrators seldom attempt to discover how poor people themselves perceive their poverty, how they cope with it, what their aspirations are, and what they would consider as an improvement in their standard of living. Unless these views from below are taken into account, poverty reduction policies have little chance of succeeding.

A case in point is the recent change in India’s system of food distribution to the poor. The first U.N. Millennium Development Goal calls for halving the proportion of very poor people in the world by the year 2025. There is a

general consensus among aid agencies and governments that to achieve this, scarce resources must be targeted toward the poor, and these agencies and government have in many cases switched from universal entitlement to targeted

programs (World Bank 2000).

In line with this trend, the Indian government decided in 1997 to change its nondiscriminatory Public Distribution System (PDS) of food into a Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

The TPDS substantially increased the value of benefits to poor households, from approximately Rs 7 per household per month in 1993 to as much as Rs 48 in 1999. Policy makers expected that these higher benefits would significantly improve poor people’s nutritional levels. But the data reveal that the effect on caloric intake was marginal. The primary reason, it turned out, was that a very small proportion of the poor availed themselves of the TPDS, so that the quantities of subsidized food grains actually purchased fell far short of the entitlements.

A study conducted a few years earlier may indirectly shed some light on the failure of the TPDS. Dr. P. Pushpamma, who monitored the health of some of the poorest children in rural Andhra Pradesh, was puzzled when she found that these children’s nutritional levels had declined during a period when incomes of the rural poor had been rising at least slightly. Her inquiry into the reasons for this pointed to the central importance of prestige.

These villagers resented the fact that their sorghum-based diet marked them as the poorest, while the better-off villagers ate rice. When these poorest households got a bit more income, the first thing they did was aim for a higher social status by changing to rice as their staple food. But rice is more costly than sorghum, so they could afford to buy less. Moreover, rice is also less nutritious than sorghum. Smaller quantities of a lower-quality food eventually led to declining health levels among the children of households aspiring to climb the social ladder (Pushpamma 1994).

Tilly, Charles (2007) Poverty and the Politics of Exclusion, in Narayan, Deepa and Patti Petesch (eds.) Moving Out of Poverty: Vol.1: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives. Washington: Palgrave MacMillan/World Bank.

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Published on February 09, 2011 05:56 • 134 views • Tags: pain, personal-power, poverty, pride

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