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Poverty Is Both a Political and a Moral Choice Made By the Powerful


Poverty Is Both a Political and a Moral Choice Made By the Powerful

Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi

The UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty reports that “the American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion.” Isn’t it time to wake up, discard both dreams and illusions, and act on the basis of the truth?



I get the sense of the article - it’s good intentions.

But I believe ‘the road to hell’ is indeed paved with these same good intentions.

James Kunstler, in his Christmas day blog, dissects the 1940’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which demonstrates this nicely. In short, suburbia seemed a good idea at the time. It turns out it was a good idea - for the financial industry, which has now morphed into a world colossus - too big to fail - which is utter bs !

Isn’t trying to lessen inequality, as defined as it is in this article and other progressive threads, really just

“I want more”?

More of what - the opportunity to shop at places like Walmart and buy more junk - or eat more junk food - which is what the North American diet is?

No - we need a real re-think - not just good intentions. What is poverty - really? Starvation and malnutrition - obesity - the diseases rampant in our affluent societies worldwide - they are really similar in some ways - ways which need to be explored, before we blindly and ignorantly vote for ‘more of the same’.

Case in point - the World Bank has decided to stop funding fossil fuel exploration after 2019 (see link below) - and its leader is obviously another very erudite, very accomplished, very alpha-male zealot.

But it is again to be remembered that the World Bank exists only to provide loans - and thus is in actuality another essential link in the chain of continuing debt.

But what choice is there - other than to borrow one’s way out of poverty?

Maybe there are alternatives.

That is my point. In a world where ‘economic mainstream growth’ as defined IS the problem - that is what must be stopped.

Reducing inequality is laudable, and necessary for a true democracy - but pursuing it by aiding and abetting the finance industry is the very thing to be avoided at all costs.

From this article:

“When people are poor they just give up on the electoral system.” This, Alston suggests, could be one reason that political elites are disposed to keep people in poverty."

But what if we all decided to be poor - rather than rich?

This would be easier to achieve - and would reduce the strain on the world’s resources.

A phrase emerged from the People’s Conference on Climate Change in Bolivia:

‘To live well’ - rather than ‘I want more’ - and that is what I mean by all of us electing to be poor.

To illustrate - here is Livy - on ancient Rome:

“I hope my passion for Rome’s past has not impaired my judgment; for I do honestly believe that no country has ever been greater or purer than ours or richer in good citizens and noble deeds; none has been free for so many generations from the vices of avarice and luxury; nowhere have thrift and plain living been for so long held in such esteem. Indeed, poverty, with us, went hand in hand with contentment. Of late years wealth has made us greedy, and self-indulgence has brought us, through every form of sensual excess, to be, if I may so put it, in love with death both individual and collective.”

and again - Livy:

“Livy also recorded: “…then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first gave way, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to the present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.”



“When people are poor they just give up on the electoral system.”

Works both ways. In a political system that runs on money, the system has given up on the poor. The poor have nothing to contribute to either major party in terms of donations. Given that money is speech, thanks to our corrupt courts, the poor have been totally muted. As a segment of the electorate, the poor remain virtually without representation in our political system and it’s been this way for decades, regardless of whether there is a D or an R in the White House. In short, the system never gives them anyone to vote for. In fact, the system goes out of its way to ignore them. When was the last time you heard poverty being discussed as a campaign issue during a major election by either party?


One place change won’t come from - The Democratic Party.


One half of our country lives at or below the poverty line. It is a crime to be poor in many parts of our country. This is domestic terrorism, a crime against humanity and treasonistic. Inequality will destroy what is left of America. The lack of morals and ethics towards the poor is rank and putrid and it comes from the “idea” of a “christian” nation.


Chris Hedges called it like it is 10 years ago in his book, Empire of Illusion.


I also try and keep up with James Kunstler especially after I read his perfectly named book about the spread of suburbia and the growing ugliness of the American landscape. The book is called - “The Geography of Nowhere”.
George Carlin also asked his audience to look at what we have done to this country - turned it into a coast to coast shopping mall. He also said that - "The reason that they call it the “American Dream” is because you have to be asleep to believe it."
I don’t believe in a “dream” that betrayed and blew up in the faces of many tens of millions of people. It looks like it devolved into “Bigger, Faster, Louder and MORE!”


Correct. It was the great Gore Vidal who said that the U.S. political duopoly is comprised of two wings of the Property Party.


There is a glaring omission to Mr. Alston 's tour and that is not showing up at places such as Pine Ridge or Rosebud reservations otherwise, it was good he did so to shine such a shameful light on this nation.


The only worse place to live in the America’s than Haiti is Pine Ridge. Thank you for pointing this out, I had over looked that.


The meltdown in 2007/2008 was 100% financial corruption and mis-named economics.

Debt is the name of the game, and we are almost all of us complicit, no doubt in some sense without knowing it.

You buy a house - with a loan - it goes up in price - you make money - it’s not a home - it’s an investment.

What did one do to ‘earn’ this ???

Nothing, except go along - with ‘the game’.

It is closer to “The Matrix” than we would like to believe, I am very much afraid.

Now - I doubt we have the will, the sense, or the honor to extricate ourselves.

But willingly or not - we are all heading for the poorhouse.

Here’s the thing - in a functioning society - there are no poorhouses - and no poor people. This is only possible once hierarchy and civilization are established.

I feel like I am tilting at windmills - shouting into the wind - but I stand by ‘Bien Vivir’ as a simple paradigm to remember once things crash.

I look around - I see the Pope’s message - I see all the news - none of it makes any sense.

Surely that is a clue - but we appear, at any rate, to live in a clueless age, and I sincerely mean that - like that Matrix.


It is not a choice.

It is the inevitable consequence of the inherent characteristics of capitalism.

You can choose to abolish poverty only by choosing to end the capitalism, an exchange economy system of profit accumulation and wage labour.

“So long as the present system of capitalism prevails and the few are allowed to own the nation’s industries, the toiling masses will be struggling in the hell of poverty as they are today. To tell them that juggling with the tariff will change this beastly and disgraceful condition is to insult their intelligence. The professional politicians who have been harping upon this string since infant industries have become giant monopolies know better. Their stock in trade is the credulity of the masses.” - Eugene Debs


Hi Ditton - I’m glad to have some company on this thread.

It was so cold in the province east of me - Saskatchewan - that a Via Rail train froze up and the passengers had to be offloaded onto buses.

It really is beginning to feel like a small plane before stall - these sluggish high pressure systems and their attendant jet streams are truly freakish in my experience.


This is a rehash of what We the People, (the moral majority) already know. Quite disturbing and un-nerving that the continuing narrative of explanation goes on without a “credible” action that is born from a clear thinking process. Obama spent eight years spelling-out what is wrong. And “what is wrong” is still wrong. Enter Reverend Barber. He’s taking time, right now, over the holidays to gear-up a very well, thought-out, “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival”.

You’d think that the racist, white religious zealot, Cortez The Killer, of the indigenous people of Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras was still stalking the world for gold to take back to Old World Spain! (Maybe he’s back, incarnate!)


Hey there…I like the slight of hand with functioning societies, nice…parts of america do have poor houses, they are called jails, we of course are in houses of debt, so in effect we are not a functioning society, just an additional brick in the wall…I have experienced cold like that before and it can be damn scary and if they are sluggish as you say it’s time to sit tight with a hot beverage or two, a board game and a good book, the one thing to consider is that the weather will change and all you can do is hope it’s for the better…Happy Holidays to you and yours Manysummits.


The Poor People Campaign still lacks a core focus. I am of the opinion that the focus needs to be the Second Bill of Rights as proposed by FDR in 1944. I wrote to the campaign as asked them to do so. I have sent the same message to most everyone I can think of except E. Warren, she’s next. Yes we need a moral revival but religious swellings are never inclusive because of the vast array of religions. Where the Second Bill of Rights includes everyone no matter their station, their religion or their creed. I think the reason Mr. “O” never did anything was it’s because he is a capitalist.


Check out this website for information on engineered cool-downs.


I am absolutely sick to death of writers who infer we can change the system by voting. The Republic is dead people…DEAD. It isn’t coming back. The corporate fascists own the government, write the laws, have all the money, own the media, military, surveillance state, and have no moral or ethical limits to hold them back. You truly fight them and you will end up in a prison or body bag. That is America today and voting is just a way control those who are still stupid enough to think they have a choice. Fuck America,enough with the freaking denial already and enough with the vote the bastards out bullshit.


Thanks Ditton - and all the best to you and yours !

It’s minus 29 degrees Centigrade as I write this, wind chill -40 under a southwest breeze - going to -19 (I hope).


I took a quick tour, and I noticed that the website states that ‘it is not about unclassified CO2 removal via natural or artificial means’.

These unclassified CO2 removal projects are the ones I think we need. No doubt other strategies are under active consideration, but since they are almost certainly classified - what is the point in speculating?