EXTREME POVERTY IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF INJUSTICE.
Injustice takes many forms, but the end result is always the same: innocent people suffer and die. Unfortunately, most injustice occurs simply because of people’s attitudes. Racial intolerance, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination all result in injustice. The idea of inequality, which makes some believe that they are superior while others are inferior, also leads to injustice. Lack of respect for an individual’s worth allows injustice to influence how people are treated. Injustice demeans, degrades, neglects, injures and kills. Injustice must be fought at all times if we are to live in a world that is safe for everyone’s children.
Injustice often results in the loss of human rights. When people are forced to try to survive with no voice concerning their living conditions, and when they have no hope of representation in the future, their rights can be denied without the fear of repercussions. When this abuse occurs repeatedly, exploitation takes over, oppression sets in, and people become trapped in situations they have no personal control over. Desperation grows as they realize they have no way to escape. They become relentlessly trapped generation after generation. All hope is lost when they face injustice so pervasive that it threatens the lives of their children.
Unfortunately, there are many forms of injustice. There is physical aggression where individuals are driven from their homes and are forced to become refugees or they are wrongly imprisoned for crimes they didn‘t commit. There is intellectual abuse where people are denied educational opportunities or they’re not allowed to express themselves freely. And there is emotional deprivation where people are stripped of their dignity and their sense of self-worth which leads to feelings of humiliation and helplessness. No matter what form injustice takes it is harmful and dangerous.
When you are so poor that you are trying to keep you family alive on one dollar a day you are a victim of injustice. When you cannot read or write and you will never have the opportunity to learn those skills you are a victim of injustice. When your child screams in the night as they slowly die from an easily preventable disease you are a victim of injustice. When your baby dies during your delivery because there is no medical help available you are a victim of injustice. When you are trapped in a refugee camp and they cannot dig graves fast enough because people are starving to death you are a victim of injustice. When your little girl is blown to pieces because she steps on landmine you are a victim of injustice. When your ethnic group is slaughtered as the entire world silently watches the genocide you are a victim of injustice.
But it is important to understand that injustice is not always so dramatic. It also occurs through neglect and apathy. It happens as a result of selfishness and cynicism. It flourishes when people refuse to take care of each other. This is the type of injustice we practice. It is not something we do consciously. We don’t purposely try to hurt anyone, and we certainly don’t want children to be at risk, but we consistently allow injustice to occur through our indifference and our tendency to turn our backs on those who so desperately need our help. When we see someone who is suffering, but we refuse to take the necessary steps to alleviate their situation, we are compounding the problem and making it worse. Injustice is not always the result of an action, it can also occur because of inaction.
When we suffer even the slightest injustice in our own lives we scream bloody murder. We demand swift revenge. We want those who we feel treated us unfairly to suffer in return. We tell anyone who will listen how poorly we have been treated. We make sure that everyone knows that we have been a victim of someone else’s deliberate provocation or their total negligence. We take them to court and sue them for all they are worth. We are willing to hold a grudge for the rest of our lives towards an individual or group who has treated us unfairly…but rarely are these injustices life threatening to us or our children. Rarely do they impede our ability to live the way we want or to earn a living. Rarely do they damage our freedoms or our personal ability to make important life choices. Rarely do they have any significant effect on our lives at all.
The types of injustice we face in our lives is nothing compared to the injustice of starvation, the shortage of clean water, the lack of medical care, the constant threat of armed conflict, the shorter life expectancy and the limited educational opportunities endured by those in extreme poverty. We have no idea what true injustice is, but we only need to open our eyes and see the reality of what a billion people have to go through every day of their lives to appreciate just how insidious and pervasive injustice can really be.
When those suffering the abuses of extreme poverty have no political voice or representation, when they have no skills or training, when they cannot read or write, when they have no personal freedom what-so-ever – it is impossible for them to mount a defense against the injustice that dominates their existence. They have no way to escape the tyranny of those who impose their will on their lives. They do not have the ability to reclaim their dignity and sense of equality with the rest of humanity. These are tasks they cannot undertake alone. They must have help, and we must be that help.
Those of us who are protected from injustice must use our freedom to defend those who are not as fortunate. We must cry out against injustice at every turn, and we must take bold steps to prevent it in the future. We can do this with our time, our money and our voices. We must advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves or their children. We must rid the world of the attitudes that allow injustice to thrive. We must create an atmosphere where the misapplication of authority is not permitted against anyone. Only then will we be able to effectively address the physical reasons for extreme poverty and not have to waste precious time combating ignorance, intolerance and hatred.
WHEN WE REFUSE TO CARE WE ARE PERPETUATING THE INJUSTICE OF EXTREME POVERTY.