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The poor you shall always have
by Maina Kabukuru
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“The poor you shall always have”

This past few weeks both the government and the private sectors released papers that seem to indicate that the fight against poverty forty years down the line, has barely touched the base. The richer become richer while the poor are becoming poorer by the day. World governments and relief organization do not seem to have improved the status of the majority of the world vulnerable citizens.

President Moi often was wont to say, “Siasa Mbaya Maisha Mbaya.” – Bad politics Bad lifestyles. The fact that poverty and wealth are pegged on the types of politics espoused is clear to all. Why are we incessantly whining about the non-service delivery of services by the Local Governments, when we are well aware of the fact that through the ballot paper we practically determined on how our lifestyle would be?

The statistics released by both the government and the private sector on the economic status of the citizenry were both depressing and eye opening. The fact that over 56% of citizens, world wide live below what is considered as the poverty line – under a dollar a day, is a dizzying reality. This massive pool of humanity under the curse of poverty is a breeding ground for all negative social vices.

As long as poverty reigns, insecurity will continue gazing at our faces. Sending more police on the beat is a reactive measure as long as poverty reigns. While poverty is both a state and an attitude, the need to wipe it out is now more needful than there before. But then, what is poverty all about? That poverty is a tool of the rich goes without any need for validation. That is why individuals are paid peanuts and when they behave the monkey as they should for being preoccupied with peanuts as monkeys do, they are accused of engaging in monkey business. The current government proposed wage guideline though well-intentioned remains but a tool for the rich and those bent on exploiting the so-called poor. The wage guideline forever safely allows for artificial cohesive and repressive socializing of the vulnerable groups with the elite.

In her treatise on “The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All” Lilian Wangûi highlights the fact that, “The existence of poverty ensures that society’s “dirty work” will be done. Every society such work: Physically dirty or dangerous, temporary, dead-end and underpaid, undignified and menial jobs.” She continues to show that “poverty creates jobs for a number of occupations and professions that serve or “service” the poor or protect the rest of society from them. Generally, her conclusions are that poverty is really a ‘rich mans’ creation. Her hypothesis therefore seems to be a sore thumb of sorts in regards to the so-called “protestant work ethics” it shakes up the very foundations of the current fad of the ‘Prosperity Gospel.’

The claim by the Nazarene about riches, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”(Matthew 19:23-24) also, paradoxically pours cold water on the ‘secularized protestant work ethic’ well known as capitalism. Capitalism thrives on greed and poverty, the Dumas story on ‘The Three Musketeers’ and especially the character whose value for exchange was pegged on ‘Pound of Flesh’ is an indictment of the extremities of capitalism.

That Karl Marx sought to remove religion from the society through his ‘secularized socialist doctrine’ is another extremity of the war between the poor and the wealthy. This past two weeks the British Ambassador to Kenya Sir Edward Clays, while talking to the private sector, strongly came out castigating them on their role in corruption, he went on to castigate their PR activities and more so in their charitable works. He challenged them to consider, that poverty is largely a result of a dysfunctional government, and therefore as private sector they are supposed to be fully engaged in positive involvement in governance for 80% of corruption occurs between them and the government and especially so in the supply segment.

The Alabaster jar of very expensive perfume incident at the home of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:5-13;Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37 NIV) is a revelation in regards to poverty both as a state and as an attitude. The observation highlighted by Mark about, “some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor. And they rebuked her harshly.” The aforementioned verse captions very well all about the state of poverty and its related attitude. No, wonder the response by the Nazarene with the often misquoted and now predestinational or fatalistic statement, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want. But you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:7)
The aforementioned was indeed a quotation of Deuteronomy 15:11 “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” This is indeed an elaborate social policy set out to cushion the vulnerable. It included the cancelling of debts and strongly forewarned the community in no uncertain terms: “. . . there should be no poor among you.”(Deut. 15:4) for resources will be made available to them as long as they live according to the value system accorded to them and which correspond to the “Ten Words.”

That the Government of Kenya has already shown the way by cancelling huge debts by farmers in the Sugar Belt, Tea and Coffee growing zones, Cattle and Ranching Pastoralists communities is the way forward. The free primary education is a worthy initiation, but it should be followed up with enough Secondary Schools and University opportunities otherwise the perennial pool of individuals lacking opportunities for higher education is a predetermined poverty creation tool that our technocrats use to feed the big industrial ‘bubble.’

The Economic Bridging Council created recently by the President unfortunately is well occupied by individuals who can be both be presumed to be ‘Wealth creators’ or ‘Poverty creators.’ They all are individuals with means, their interests will obviously come first, and most of them need ‘services’ from the minions in their employment, so who really will speak for the ‘poor.’

While economic trends seem to advocate for privatisation of public utilities, if truth be told the main motif behind privatisation is hoarding of the capital to a few selected individuals; after all the so-called public utilities are owned essentially by a conglom’er-ate of private individuals. We should not therefore allow to be sucked in the semantic whirlpool. For as long as we continue to abrogate the principles laid down in the “Ten Words,” we remain open to the vagaries of the so-called ‘secularized capitalism’ but if we do not watch out we can also fall into the trap of ‘sacred fatalism.’

kabukuru f.m.
5251, 00506
Nyayo Stadium, nairobi, kenya
copyright 2004 kabukuru f.m.
email: maichk@yahoo.co.uk

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