Full Pockets, Empty Hearts

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: Teo’s photo)

They say money can’t buy you happiness. The cynic in me wonders how much money was made putting that platitude on posters and buttons during the seventies. It seems the loudest advocates for finding contentment without money are people who have it. We are told, over and again, just how miserable the wealthy really are. How their lives are full of worry and doubt. We make ourselves feel better by reflecting on how they must always wonder about the sincerity of those around them. We find joy in the notion that the best things in life are the intangibles that cannot be purchased, or at least so we have been led to believe.

Despite our repeating the holy mantra of the sacredness of poverty, money can buy some of those intangibles. It can buy peace when you know you don’t have to worry about keeping shelter over your head, food in your belly, and clothes on your body. It can buy happiness, or at least contentment, when you know you can get into whatever school you want and be guaranteed a decent, secure job in whatever field you choose. It can buy the satisfaction of knowing you always have choices, something the poor rarely have.

The rich are not any better than us. We really do have a right to hold our heads up with pride, because there are things that they will never know. Despite their many assertions to the contrary, most of them will never know the thrill of having survived a desperate situation. Most of them will never know the love that comes from trusting a stranger with your safety. Most of them will never wear the badge of honor that is a pair of calloused hands, well-worn with a real hard day’s work.

All that said, though, we owe it to ourselves to stop with this beatification of being poor. We have to stop letting ourselves be duped by their attempts to make us pity them their poverty of the soul. It allows them to get away with leaving us bereft of choice. It provides them cover as they destroy our society and our world. Maybe you don’t want to be rich. I can relate, I have no burning desire to be either (though I suppose I wouldn’t turn it down.) That’s fine. Money is not an end unto itself. It is, however, and important tool for survival in this complex world of ours, and by shrugging our shoulders and fooling ourselves into thinking the rich have it just as bad as we do, just in a different way, we are letting them get away with hoarding it at our expense.

Before you start in on how you don’t need a fancy car, or house, or clothes, I would remind you that the expense is not just at those who do not get to enjoy those luxuries. The expense is on veterans, denied services promised to them for keeping up their end of the bargain. The expense is on the elderly, who have paid all their lives into a system guaranteed to make sure they would not be out in the cold in their golden years, and now watch as that system is gutted. The expense is on our children, who attend schools that are little more than dilapidated  prisons. You don’t need the newest iPad, good for you. None of those people need it either, they just need a decent chance at life.

So instead of puffing out your chest and lying to yourself that we are all better off than the 1%, how about puffing up your brain power and thinking of ways to remind them that they are part of a civil society and must pay their due. How about instead of your head swelling with pride over your moral superiority over the wealthy, your heart swells with anger over how they create a system in which the most vulnerable of us are left even more vulnerable. They may truly suffer a poverty of the soul, but that is nowhere near as painful as a poverty of the soup bowl. If you want to show how truly superior to them you are, how you have it so much better than they do, show it, by rejoining your community and fighting alongside us.

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