At the present time the Arab world is going through significant upheaval. There are organized protests and spontaneous riots in the streets directed at those who rule without compassion or altruism. The landscape of an entire region is beginning to change and how things will sort out is difficult to say, however, one thing is for certain; the governments of the western world will be paying close attention to the outcome for all the wrong reasons.

They will care little about the plight of the people. They will not particularly care if democracy begins to flourish. They will not even care if stability is established in the region. They will only care that the supply of oil is not diminished. They will only care that there is no collateral damage to our economies. They will only care that our lives are not impacted in any meaningful way. In other words, the Western world will, once again, be completely selfish in how it views the efforts of millions of people to gain their freedom.

This scenario is not so different from what takes place each day in the reaction of governments to the crisis of extreme poverty. As long as those who are suffering and dying have little or no affect on us there is no impetus to stem their misery. A government who cares more about its citizens being able to fill up their gas guzzling SUVs than filling the stomachs of starving children is, unfortunately, focused almost exclusively on itself. Therefore, it gives little consideration to the rest of the world when important decisions need to be made.

It could be said that this is a cynical point of view, but that is not the case. It is a perception based on past history filled with prime examples of how entire populations are either exploited or ignored based on our needs for their resources or their lack of perceived value to us. Too often political decisions with far-ranging impacts are reached without regard or concern for those who will be affected most. This insensitivity has led to the perpetuation of extreme poverty, and it does not appear that things will improve in the immediate future.

What may seem like harmless political posturing can actually have devastating results. When a government behaves only in its own self-interest, to the exclusion of everyone else, someone somewhere pays a terrible price, and that is usually the most vulnerable. Those who have no political power generally receive the brunt of the selfish and careless decisions made by short-sighted governments around the world.

Unfortunately, the one billion human beings who are struggling to survive on one dollar a day are virtually without political influence. They are not represented in any meaningful way. They are used, abused and discarded at every turn. Their lives are considered worthless by those who actually have the power to make them better. They suffer the consequences of decisions that they are not allowed to participate in and their futures are destroyed by the political games of the present. The lives of their precious children are considered disposable. If anything, those in poverty are viewed as a nuisance, a hindrance and a stumbling block to attaining both the territory and the resources that are craved by those with political power.

How long will this continue to be the case? The answer lies with each of us. As long as we vote for “politicians” instead of “leaders” we will get politics instead of leadership. In a democracy the people have the opportunity to decide who represents them, but if we choose not to exercise that right, and too often we don’t, than we get elected officials who are actually placed into power by entities with vast sums of money and influence. This in turn makes the office holder indebted to those who secured their position for them. It is a vicious cycle that plays out continuously, all because we do not actively participate in the affairs of our nation. We are content to sit back and let others choose for us.

The tragic reality is that our unwillingness to actively back candidates who are intelligent and compassionate costs innocent people their lives. Those in extreme poverty, who are losing their children at the heartbreaking rate of one million every 40 days, do not care about our special interest groups or our deep-seated need for foreign energy sources, or our never-ending willingness to spend ourselves into oblivion with over inflated defense budgets. They only care about seeing their sons and daughters stay alive. They do not want them to die from hunger. They do not want them to die from treatable illnesses. They do not want them to die from preventable diseases…But apparently they are asking for too much.

A cup of food that will feed a starving child only costs 25 cents. So the next time you hear a politician talk about spending a billion dollars on something meaningless and trivial think about all the meals that would provide. Think of the vaccines and medications that could be delivered. Think of the wells that could be dug to provide clean water. Think of the mosquito nets that could be purchased to ward off malaria. Stop and think about the millions of lives that could be saved with such a significant amount of money.

In a democracy our vote carries far more weight than we imagine. The government belongs to us. We put the politicians in place. We are ultimately responsible for electing candidates who care about the decisions they have to make. If we choose to stand on the sidelines, special interest groups will move in and use vast sums of money to buy the candidates they want. That will ensure that the world’s poor will continue to suffer and die, and it will be the direct result of our laziness and irresponsibility.

For a large percentage of the one billion human beings in extreme poverty the very thought that they could have a say in controlling the government they are forced to live under is beyond their comprehension. Most of them have struggled and died generation after generation under totalitarian rule by one oppressor after another. They would give almost anything to have the freedom and power to vote as we do, and yet we cannot be bothered with such things. It is inconvenient to stay informed on important matters. It requires too much effort to register. It is a right we take completely for granted and as a result we get politicians who play their money games and destroy millions of lives in the process. 30,000 innocent human beings die each day from extreme poverty. When we feel the urge to blame the government for those deaths we must remember that we are the government.





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