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Equal Democracy


     Unmet needs in the midst of plenty raises some important questions. Is poverty mainly due to efficiency problems stemming from an underdeveloped recognition of the basic equalities of life, failed dynamics in interdependent relationships, and a lack of knowledgeable problem solving strategies or skills? Would a poll reflect a lot of people are out of touch with how the suffering of others often impacts more than a single life and would raising awareness potentially help?  


     Unmet basic needs like; healthy food, water, shelter, medicine, or care and any abuse of power responsible for creating harsh conditions such as starvation, homelessness, or impoverishment represent critical and urgent needs. Poverty, misery, and physical and psychological devastation go hand in hand.  It would be unfair to suggest all of societies problems result from intended behaviors or neglect because it is a cumulative problem with multiple factors. Yet it is difficult to understand how so much suffering seems to be tolerated while wealth continues to be concentrated and taxes levied at disproportianate rates-favoring wealthier classes versus funding essential programs that could help stimulate learning and skill training or assist dependent populations. Assessing the largly undiognosed disabled population in ways that modifies the level of expectations to participate is an important and necessary accomadation. 


     The abuse of the planet is beginning to inform us that many common behaviors need to be curbed in the face of global warming for example and that pressure has prompted some rather late responses in the right direction.  Short term goals often win attention over the long term due to how human behavior is motivated to satisfy needs. More often than not, percieved and immediate biological needs cloud more rational long term decision making that help clarfiy more and less desirable behaviors. Presenting people with opportunities to practice true sacrifice, and compassion is something the study of Poverty also presents.  


     Levels of social equalities and freedoms enjoyed are determined by the willingness to fulfill basic needs and share resources. Thus, constructive self-determination is essential in democracy. Without adequate discipline the unrealized ideal of a free democracy is a falsely claimed reality for many modern tyrranies.  Over-indulgence and high crime commonly found in societies where class systems result in the concentration of wealth and deprivation of a dominant, yet ruled underclass. These are indicators that freedom and equal opportunity for participation is not working in favor of the greater good. Abuses and resulting corruption are likely to continue unless self-interests become more congruent with values and behaviors that are consistent and supportive of the maximization of uninhibited potential.



Introduction to the problems of poverty


     Homelessness and many other social injustices are symptoms of neglected illnesses and reflect the existence of limitations of support systems, not an absence of resources.  Yet, with the population of 5.6 billion expected to double in the next fifty years (Jackson, R. 2000) it may be anticipated that scarcity, conflict and suffering can best be minimized through prevention, planning, and implementing reforms in global education and healthcare.     




     Solutions to problems of poverty requires commitments that involve both reasonable crisis prevention planning and direct action. When we are talking about a better world we’re really talking about stronger family units and producing healthier individuals that care, share, and have positive self-esteem and self concepts that in turn impact the quality of life.





     Living less violent lifestyles to reduce and prevent impoverishment includes; decreasing reliance on non-renewable resources, increasing reliance on renewable resources, eliminating toxic productions, innovating or using non-toxic alternatives, increasing healthier diets, diversifying wild food crops and supporting more sustainable agricultural practices, improving distribution and the sharing of resources, and equally taxing on a fair playing field.  Healthy parenting and social standards for success could help establish a framework to ensure more basic needs are met with helpful, more accessible, and less punitive systems of response.    



     A vast amount of time, energy, and resources are spent confiscating grocery carts, personal belongings, and arresting homeless people.  Investing in shelters, providing adequate mental health care, and subsidized housing and employment programs would win some important victories that can minimize and relieve human suffering.  By making a greater investment to delivering effective mental health services from experienced and qualified practitioners more can be done to address, establish, and prioritize the needs of impoverished individuals. Such action can discourage illness, reduce criminal behavior and aid individuals in obtaining successful integration or re-integration goals. Lowering wages and skill level qualifications to perform key functions in schools, prisons and hospitals and other industriesonly reinforces service failure and a lack of progress.  Fewer qualified people would be better than more unqualified people in most cases.  Implementing an equal taxation program would fund these and many more needed projects. 



Poverty Related Questions & Points to Consider


  • Some people claim that the impoverished are being justly punished for their own mistakes, and that their suffering is the consequence of their own behavior, not societies at large. Yet society suffers the results of people whom act in desperation due to unmet needs.



  • Poverty stricken populations suffer higher infant mortality rates. (Kaufman & Franz 1996) pg.158,159



  • In the U.S. affluence, obtaining a higher education, and making more money go hand in hand. (State Source 2001.) In many European countries intellectual advancement is based more on performance than wealth. How can the access to opportunity be fairer? 



  • Many religious (Beversluis,Joel 1993) and some academic traditions (Fuller, B.A.G. 1938 ) promote non-materialism or detachment as a spiritual attribute or goal.



  • If realistic goals consistent with harmony and good health were considered the highest forms of fortune, how could that impact achievement motivations? 



  • Poverty is a product of hoarding resources, misappropriation of resources, and not fully or equally valuing life. Is moral poverty the precursor to the physical expression of impoverishment?  



  • Does hoarding stem from a survival instinct to meet basic needs gone astray? 




  • In the U.S. the working class are taxed as much as 38% on income and item purchases combined, not including land taxes.  If we taxed everyone equally including corporations which are recognized as “people,” we would solve two problems- poverty and injustice. 



  • Many people live from paycheck to paycheck without any savings or other adequate support networks. 



  • In the U.S. the numbers of people visibly on the street and suffering have dramatically increased since the early 20th century. (statistic showing this contrasted with concentration of wealth pending.)



Sociological and Psychological issues pertaining to Poverty


     Violence and the tolerance of dehumanization and victimization create conditions of impoverishment. In many  non-western societies homelessness and hunger are not usual or allowed social conditions.  Because the cultural values of the west do not necessarily correspond with other cultures, isn't it pretentious to assume that having no electricity, or refrigeration is a symbol of poverty?  Unfortunately, values can contradict the needs of life and even threaten or harm life. Who is to say if using a donkey is less effective form of transportation than a toxic car?  We might get there faster in a car, but is it worth the true costs?  Gross national products that do not calculate the real costs that the damages industrial production creates in the process are inaccurate. Such damages including contributions to environmentally related illnesses and genetic alterations resulting from production leave a question of who to- blame consumers or manufacturers? If you think second contributes to cancer, just wait until you find out what is happening down at your local incineration plant, steel mill, nuclear powered plant and even what is being put into the majority of our food products. With statistics like 1 in 3 women and 1 and 2 men projected to suffer some form of cancer according to the American Cancer Association, the reality is grime and I really hope the majority of scientists raising their red flags will be proven wrong, but why take uneccesary risks especiallywhen safer options are abundent in most cases.


Hate, Poison, and the Social Role of Poverty


     Poverty is the bi-product of collective and individual decision-making and behavior.  What causes some cultures to reinforce dehumanizing behaviors like banishment, punishment, hoarding, and alienation more than others?  Individual and dominant cultural beliefs help account for the difference in the degree that banishment, punishment, hoarding, violence, illness and alienation are practiced or reinforced in a given society.




     When addressing the problem of poverty, the balance of social and individual crisis prevention planning and responses needs to be struck.  Individual psychological problems can be expressed and compounded within society to produce symptoms such as war, pollution, and poverty that are dangerous to society. Greed associated with inferiority complexes, unsubstantiated fear associated with paranoia, and unhealthy biases associated with illogical projections are symptoms of abnormal behaviors that can represent significant problems for oneself and or others.  When people with behavior disorders display bad behavior, others may replicate and spread the behavior due to modeling or vicarious learning.  In a nutshell, those factors are included in perpetual cycles of suffering (see appendix B.). Neurosis or mental illness results from individual biological, psychological, and sociological circumstances and /or conditions that impact how perceptions are formed and how energy is expressed.  Attitudes can impact immune system functioning or healing to some extent (Cousins, Norman 1983.) Therefore, personality can impact adaptive or survival capacities such as the quality of support networks which are essential to the quality of life.  Those factors are significant to help understand the significance of alienation, deprivation, and obstacles or assets to healing where poverty is present.




Priorities Argument


     Evaluating problems like hoarding, the control and distribution of resources, the roles and responsibilities of intervening forces, and civil codes are not easy matters.  Reducing want or need requires the willingness of world citizens to participate in designing and implementing the necessary changes and particular processes we find helpful in alleviating and preventing crises.  UC Berkeley professor Sim Van Der Ryn presents the need for sensible planning in his book Ecological Design (1996).  Dr. Helen Caldicott of Physicians for Social Responsibility points out in her book Nuclear Madness (1994) that we need to get our priorities straight and take appropriate actions, otherwise none of the important issues we wish to address as concerned and caring people will matter, because there will be nothing left to defend if we ignore toxic waste production (including proliferation) use, and management related issues.



We Share in Common


     All people need social interactions and to be cared for in order to be physically and mentally healthy.  Affection is a human need (Schultz D.& S.1996 on Maslow,A.) Thus, invisibility, alienation, and untouchable associations practiced towards the impoverished are further obstacles faced by the poor.  Increasing compassion for the impoverished is an important step in helping develop or restore positive self esteem upon which both fortune and opportunity depend.



     Where is the line between self-betterment and greed drawn? What does poverty in the midst of plenty serves to exemplify and reinforce? What is an adequate definition and measurement of success that more objectively accounts for the public’s health, safety and welfare?  Clearly many social problems require the examination of lifestyles, ethics, and behaviors.  With so many problems linkable to low self-esteem and a lack of empathy, it is not difficult to conclude that gross materialism or greed stemming from ignorance and unchecked desire are significant issues to be reckoned with.



Arrest Poverty: Set the Impoverished Free From the Constraints of Suffering


     Ahimsa, the philosophy and practice of non-violence is largely based on compassion, responsibility, empathy and critical thinking to initiate the least harmful thoughts and deeds. This ancient peace practice reinforces the problem-solution community development model, mental wellness practices, and ultimately serves as a useful tool to improve survival and the quality of our lives.  At its core is the ethic of being committed to minimizing and preventing suffering as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King JR., mother Teresa and others demonstrated. Thus, an emphasis on adaptation and selecting the best responses one is aware or capable of versus submission or domination (unrealistic humancentric projections of control) are essential to productive leadership. Assuming such active roles in ones own daily life is essential, especially when constant change, uncertainly, and errors are common.



How and Why Inappropriate Responses to Suffering are Issued


     Many witnesses react defensively towards the suffering due to inexperience and fear regarding crisis based situations or a lack of skill in dealing with the stress carried and shared by a suffering person.  Besides denial, projection, suppressing an experience or other less helpful defense options, many people often react defensively and choose to look and react negatively towards suffering people.  Unfortunately, people selfishly practice discriminations that rationalize their claims to resources, making scape-goating and irrational thinking a convenient means of avoidance.  It is important to note that avoidance and/or denial may not be intentional. People may be empowered and be found to enthusiastically accept that they can help in solving and preventing suffering.  However, good intentions without skill and adequate support is not enough. Some people are resistant to help at all- placing blame and their priorities elsewhere, perhaps comfortably thinking the problem belongs to someone else and assuming poverty does not matter or may be a necessary result of the survival of the fittest. Such people lack the wisdom or understanding that suffering of any kind is a shared experience with far reaching impacts. The opposite extreems presented by people that lack skills and resources to effectively present solutions despite passionate intentions to help others can often be linked to compensation mechanisms, obsessions, or efforts to reduce guilt, or fullfill distorted self concepts which are often selfish, counterproductive or not effective.  



The Role of Compassion


     If people are cared for, is it more likely that they are going to be able to learn to care about, and for themselves? Disadvantages can be observed in most people who are victims of neglect or abuse, but not everyone that was once abused becomes an abuser. In contrast, would examining the outcomes of people from loving families, reveal that self-sufficiency or independence is more regularly achieved and maintained? Irregardless of such findings we do know that some behaviors are learned or conditioned while others despite social opportunities are tracable to biological conditions, some of which develop due to lifestyle and or life experiences and others from genetics.   



     Priorities or behaviors are developed according to the ability of people to perceive and respond to their needs (Schultz, Duane and Sidney 1996).  If a person is hungry, sleep deprived, ignorant ,or suffering from drug dependency, or behavioral disorders, as many impoverished people are, it is less likely that they will have the skill or the strength to act in their best interests. Where family fails institutions of varying methods and quality sometimes take over.  With greater support to families such as mandated free parenting classes and available counseling, the interventions made by insititions may empower greater participation and longer term solutions leading towards greater independence overall.



     With adequate support many individuals can learn to live healthier or otherwise improve their circumstances.  Difficult people that lack the will or desire to improve, may have unhealthy commitments, negative or distorted self esteem, and unhealthy self- concepts. Such people often lack vision of realistic life purposes, lack skills for industry or socializing, or have inadequate adaptive skills for many possible reasons including social or biologically explainable disabilities. Does it make sense to hold disables populations to the same standards of productivity? If not, why are there not either work programs or more affordable housing or benefit programs to help that population maintain as much independence as their conditions allow? Surely, it is more costly to lock them up besides being inhumane.   



Discipline of Care


     How can need and need fulfillment be better assessed? Should not the emphasis of need fullfillment be individually designed to meet individual needs, goals, interests, and encourage the development of skills based on unique abilities and realistic stages of readiness or known limitations. 



Homelessness in the United States of America


     The homeless population is diverse. Some of the population is chemically dependent on alcohol or other substances. A large number of the homeless are war veterans and many suffer from psychological, or physical disabilities.  A number of the young homeless people are runaways avoiding abusive homes.  This is also true for the majority of mothers in critical family emergencies.  Racial and ethnic composition studies of the homeless show that the majority of the homeless population is made up of minority groups. Just under half are white. Statistics show a growing minority group (SF Examiner Nov 12th 1991.)



     Washington, DC and San Francisco are reported to have the highest concentration of homeless people in the United States. According to a 1990 Census Bureau tally these cities have eight homeless people for every 1,000 residents (SF Examiner Nov 12th 1991.) In San Francisco historic, economic, political and geographic factors have led homelessness to increase dramatically over the last twenty years. San Francisco is a desirable place to live. As a result the city has become one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Redevelopment and gentrification have wiped out the majority of inexpensive housing over the last twenty years.  A city sponsored study made in 1989 shows rents have jumped 166 percent for rooms between 1978 and 1988 while the income of city residents rose only 100 percent (SF Examiner Nov 12th 1991.) According to a more recent report (Cohen, 2006) since 1996 there has been a 70% increase in the cost of living for working families in San Francisco showing a continued trend.


     Many critics alledge to much of our federal reosurces collected from taxes is being spent on defense related projects in contrast to public works, health, education and other social programs. If this were confirmed, it could help Department of Peace advocates argue that preventing and resolving conflicts would result in savings and allow for a reallocation of the funds to support healthier projects and programs. Yale economist William Nordhaus  calculated the US spent, "$500 billion for defense in 2005- more than all other Nato countries combined"(W., Joerge 2006.) Rumsfeld was cited (W., Joerge 2006) as stating, "3.7 percent of every american tax dollar goes towards our national defense...six of our nato allies spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense, but 19- do not even spend 2 percent."   



Mental Health


     During the Regan administrations rule, drastic budget cuts were made affecting federally funded mental institutions and thousands of patients were released, many ending up on the streets.  Some people are obviously in need of and yet are denied adequate medical and mental health care.  A Jail Psychiatric Services report says that, 



“In 1970, in the United Sates, there were 500,000 state psychiatric hospital beds and 300,000 prison and jail beds.  In 1992, there were 100,000 state psychiatric hospital beds and 2,000,000 jail and prison beds.  State psychiatric hospital beds have been reduced, and the jails are now the repository for the marginalized mentally ill- those who are homeless, those who lack a support system, those who are poor, those for whom community mental health has failed.  Corrections and the streets have become the treatment centers of the chronically mentally ill.”   (July 2000 JPS) Haight Ashbury Free Clinic Inc. Training Video. 



     Healthy development is contingent upon cooperative and supporting factors that encourage and provide opportunities that aid healthy growth or otherwise reverse conditions that threaten it.  For example, raising a child involves the family (love), supportive ecological conditions that produce adequate food and water.  Without any of those conditions healthy development is impeded. 



     As a species we use concepts of justice, religion, and knowledge to distill wisdom, which advances survival and efficiency.  However, practical analysis of our historical records in many areas including pollution, species loss, soil erosion, declining regenerative capabilities and adverse genetic deformities demonstrates the incongruence of ideal themes regarding humanities purpose, values and physical trends that contradict the basic needs of life.  Those evidences suggest that the offending methods or destructive behaviors need to be evaluated and reformed. 



      Many people glance at the victims of poverty and don’t make the commitment to make the necessary changes to prevent or reduce suffering.  We can transform a rationale that justifies oppression as an acceptable condition by demonstrating nonviolent non-cooperation and withdrawal of support for behaviors needed to maintain irrational or unhealthy thoughts, or behaviors (including all industries).  How can we motivate people to make fairer distribution methods that may increase sharing and maximize potentials collectively and individually?



Choice and Human Behavior


     Individual choice may be limited by innate conditions, life experience, and existing cognitive skills. Perhaps better options and better behaviors will prevail when a better understanding regarding the costs of individual and collective decisions are made known.  Dr. Van Potter (1971 ) stated, “more (different) knowledge is the solution to dangerous knowledge.” (mine)  History clearly shows that there are circumstances when it is necessary to build new systems and even rebel against unjust ones to firmly announce violations and appropriate citations issued for injustice and the transgressions against life.  An informed response is preferred over a premature reaction, but in life one experiences both.  Fear, doubt, misinformation, or a lack of experience can cause people to rush about with their own bias often operating from false assumptions, distorted impressions, prejudices, ignorance and impatience.  As a result, clear communication exchanges and healthy relations are more difficult to achieve.  In psychological predictable terms, personal fictions (Schultz 1996 on Adler) may not correspond with physical or conditional needs. For example, personal fictions could be reflected in efforts like using plutonium to send spacecrafts to outer-space which risks life if something goes wrong.  When such decisions are made not because better options did not exists, but due to bias’s related more to preferences and less about objectivity and greater good considerations or precautions, we can see how personal fictions can be problematic.  The same can be said for when war decisions are made without due process or necessary support from the people expected to fight or support them or when myths are manufactured to nominate dictators.    



Closing Statements


     By developing and supporting initiatives that reduce violence or unhealthy stress, we can engage in non-violent activities that make the world a better place for us all.  By distributing resources more fairly, implementing equal taxation laws and building more efficient and compassionate ethics and social support systems, we will help to ensure that the basic rights of life are protected.  Anything less is trespassing against justice, restricting freedom, assaulting intelligence and is liable for damages that can otherwise be averted.  The people must not only be warned, but be mobilized.  For inaction here will only serve to limit the pursuit of life, liberty, and harmony.  Suffering is a call for help. When and how each of us decides to help is a crucial determinant in the extent suffering will be permitted to exert its influence. Clearly it is a bridge we each must cross.  





Beversluis, J. (1993). A sourcebook for the Community of Religions. Chicago: The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions


Caldicott, H. (1994). Nuclear Madness. Ny: W.W. Norton & Company


Cohen, Tara (2006) Making Ends Meet. Berkeley: Independent undergraduate student researcher.

Cousins, Norman. (1983). The Healing Heart. Ny: W.W. Norton & Company


Der Ryn ,S. V. & Cowan, S. (1996). Ecological Design. Washington, D.C.: Earth Island Press


Fuller, B.A.G. (1938). History of Philosophy. New York: Henry Holt & Co.


Haight Ashbury Free Clinic Inc. Video. (2000)


Jackson, R. (2000) Population and Development. CA: Evolve Multimedia Publishing 

Kaufman & Franz (1996). Biosphere 2000, pg.158,159. Iowa: Kenhall/Hunt Publishing Co.


Potter, Van  (1971) Bioethics. N.J.: Prentice-Hall


San Francisco Examiner Nov. 12th Issue 1991


Schultz, D.&. S. (1996).  A History of Modern Psychology. FL: Harcourt Brace & Co.


State Source 2001


Sue, Sue, Sue (2000). Abnormal Behavior. MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.

W. Joerg (2006) Transatlantic Relations  http://atlanticreview.org/plugin/tag/Rumsfeld 



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