By Tera Ertz
Part 1 of a 2 part series
I ran across this lovely photo of one of the Wall Street protesters at my fellow contributor, Craig Andresen’s site, and it struck me kind of funny. There are so many words to pick apart in this particular sentence, I had a tough time picking out just one. But, being the adventurous sort, I figured I’d give it a go any way, and maybe get a multiple words lesson in for the day. Let me start by saying he’s not wrong, but he doesn’t state the whole story, obviously, his sign is already way too full, and it would be distracting to bring in all the facts of the matter. But, we’ll get to the rest of the message in a minute. First, let’s discover what my trusty dictionary.com has to say about the key words here:
Poverty — n 1. the condition of being without adequate food, money, etc
Now, I may have mentioned that I am a child of the eighties. The word poverty always evokes in my mind, and the minds of most of my contemporaries, the image of Sally Struthers walking the dusty trails of a village in Africa surrounded by little children with huge eyes, visible ribs and distended bellies, perhaps with a fly landing on their cheek. For those in the generations before me, the word probably evokes images of the tent cities of the Depression era, or the starvation and death they witnessed in Asian and European countries as they went to fight wars far across the waves. For immigrants from places like Castro’s Cuba, or the USSR, it probably evokes images of bread lines, harsh weather without the comfort of conditioned air and people dying of diseases we don’t think twice about here in the United States. It is synonymous with destitution, privation, starvation. In other words, or any words, it’s a pretty bleak panorama that opens before our eyes when we hear the word poverty.
Suffering — n 1. the pain, misery, or loss experienced by a person who suffers
Again, the word evokes images of people dying alone in back alleys, or in unimaginable agony. The picture will vary depending on your age and background, but suffering is a bleak and pain filled word. When you combine it with poverty, it more strongly pulls at the heartstrings attached to the images of days gone by where privation was common, and Hobbes’ short and ugly life was more real than any other form of existence. It reminds one of Dickensian flashback of Oliver begging and stealing to keep himself alive under the evil Fagan, or Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving child.
Now for the last big word we need to look at from the sign created by this little mind.
Responsible — 1. answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management
I would say that in the world of today, Wall Street is indeed responsible for most of the poverty and suffering on this planet. Now, there are places where Wall Street and the economy it represents have been banned. There are places across the globe where the tyrants in charge have blocked aid from the United States, denounced us as infidels, usurpers, imperialists, and worse, and rather than just biting the hand that feeds it but still eating, have actually slapped that hand away. Wall Street is not responsible for the poverty and suffering in these areas because the poverty and suffering in these areas is outside their power and the power of our economy to control or manage. But, let us take a look at the places where their power does extend. First, right here on our own shores.
Poverty in today’s United States as defined by the government that helps those below the poverty line no longer entails privation and destitution. It is instead defined as:
Poverty –the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.
Now that presents a bit of a different picture than the one normally evoked by this word in our collective psyche. Poverty is no longer about starvation, it is about having as much as the guy next door, or as much as someone deems is socially acceptable. Today, according to government reports, this means that those in poverty in this country eat three square meals a day, live in a house with adequate space for the people who reside there, have air conditioning, a microwave, television (or two), game systems, cable, a vehicle (or two), and a washer and dryer. I posit the theory that it is indeed Wall Street, and the economy it represents, that is responsible for this new level of poverty here in the United States.
Let us look at poverty in Africa and other third world nations. Poverty was once about starvation, lack of drinking water, lack of education, lack of most of the basic necessities of life. Poverty meant that illness would likely kill you in childhood, and if you made it to adulthood, your only means of survival was kill or be killed. Today, in many places in Africa and other third world nations, there is clean drinking water, schools to educate their young people to provide them with a better future, there is agriculture, there is medical care, there is better housing, and most importantly there is hope. It is thanks to Wall Street and the economy that it represents that these places have been provided for by groups like UNICEF, the American Red Cross, UMCOR, Compassion, Kiva, and a myriad of other non-profit organizations based here in the United States that run on private donations and investments from folks who have benefited from Wall Street and the economy it represents. It is thanks to the taxes paid by Wall Street organizations like the UN and programs funded by the US Federal government have reduced the cases of AIDS, malaria and other deadly diseases in these countries, as well as providing food, water and shelter for those devastated by the wars in countries where there is the poverty and suffering that is outside the control of Wall Street and the economy it represents.
Let us look at suffering in the world today. The world life expectancy was once about 50 years old. And the years prior to your death, you could look forward to debilitating illness and incapacitating injuries, and at the beginning of your life you stood a good chance of dying before reaching the age two. Today, in the areas that Wall Street and the economy it represents are responsible for, life expectancy has extended sometimes up to 72 years, and infant mortality rates are lower than they have ever been in history (at least if you don’t count the ones in the womb). During your later years, you can look forward to a myriad of medications, procedures and equipment that will keep you in comfort in all but the most egregious of cases, and those cases too are being worked on. We can replace joints and organs, regenerate bone marrow, cure once deadly diseases with simple medications and alleviate most pain. This level of suffering is indeed the responsibility of Wall Street and the economy it represents.
Tune in tomorrow to find out what the more apt definition of responsibility is, and what this sign should have read. In the meantime, Learn the Lingo, and be wary the wielders of words.
You can check out more of Tera Ertz writings at The Pursuit of Happiness Show, or follow her on Facebook.