Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Real Poverty in America

Kim, over at Life in a Shoe, mother of nine, has brought up an interesting topic...

If you thought your income was modest but sufficient, the truth is you could be teetering on the brink of poverty. Let's put an end to your blissful ignorance, because nobody should be forced to choose between gasoline and a gym membership. It's just un-American.

Be sure to read her whole post here.

Did you go read it and come back? Go ahead. I'll wait.

The first thought that came to my mind was how ironic it is that Americans will go into debt so as not to be "poor".
What greater poverty could there be?
Isn't poverty a fairly absolute term? Why should it be a measurement of how we compare to our neighbors? If one cannot afford to take their family to Disneyland every year, does that make them poor and the children deprived?

This all ties in with a conversation that I had with my mom yesterday. We were on a toll road and the vehicle pulling through beside us was a gorgeous, new SUV. I wondered to myself how anyone would be able to afford a vehicle like that (unless they had exceptional employment)... this mental query was quickly followed up by the realization that many people can't actually afford the lifestyle that they've bought into it.
A quick look at revealed that, "The average American with a credit file is responsible for $16,635 in debt, excluding mortages, according to Experian." Another statistic quoted on The Sensible Steward says this: "Looked at another way, consumer debt today equals 132% of the average household's annual disposable income."

It is up to speculation to consider how many of these individuals and households might not have any debt if they had stopped and thought. It seems to me that there is a deficit in this country in more than just monetary funds. There appears to be just as severe a shortage in both common sense and critical thinking. defines common sense as "sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence." It defines critical thinking as "the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion."
We've all heard the saying, "Common sense isn't as common as it used to be." Unfortunately, that has caused more than a little harm (not reserved to monetary poverty alone); the consequences of which won't be pretty...

What is the best way to avoid this in the future then? My answer would be good, solid education. This is not limited to a child's formal education (although that is certainly a part of it), but includes the mindset their parents impart to them, the expectations they are to live up to (read: responsibility for their actions), and the ability to think for themselves. If more people were to think on their own and make decisions independent of pressure from advertisers, the media, and peers, maybe our country wouldn't be facing the (economic/political/social/religious) crisis that is staring it in the face.

Ultimately, I think that it boils down to just a couple of things:
- People (society) need God. They need morality and that Someone to whom they must answer for their actions and to whom they can turn for help.
- Parents need to raise the children that they bear. Broken homes, day care, excessive extra-curricular activities all contribute to children being left to "raise themselves."
Unless and until these poverties are amended, we will search in vain for the solution to the current crisis.

**Addendum... One of the gravest poverties in our country is that millions of children are being denied life, but that's opening an entirely new can of worms and I'm not going there today.**

1 comment:

A Borg said...

Great post, M. To overcome the social poverty that permeates society solid education from early on both in the home and in the classroom are essential. But I think that even more importantly is one of your last points, a moral code of conduct.

Nothing will bind a conscience more than an unchanging, permanent and transcendent rule which directs an individual to an equally unchanging, permanent and transcendent good. We both know that I'm talking about supernatural religion and the natural law.

Today's social poverty is the direct result of a subjective, selfish mentality that is promoted in our schools, activities, media, government, etc. It's overwhelming... God help us!