Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old teenager, carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders for the adults who refuse to. A 16-year old girl, addressing the UN. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos she said:
“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act…I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”
When I look out at this frightening global landscape, I desperately want to see change. But when I see the incredible people who are stepping up to the plate, dedicating their lives to taking on the world, sometimes it’s hard for me to see how I can even be a part of that. I don’t feel like I’m that strong, or smart, or eloquent, or dedicated. Sometimes, when I think about it all too much, I feel like I can barely get out of bed in the morning. It’s overwhelming. What can one person really do?
Where do our ideas on poverty and justice come from?
As we’ve discussed in our last few posts, addressing and engaging in a problem all begins with how we define the problem in the first place. So, when we talk about tackling poverty, we have to begin by pondering what poverty means to us and to the rest of the world. In the western world, our ideas of poverty largely stem from the media. The picture of poverty portrayed, both local and global, is often oversimplified and inaccurate. When we fail to think critically, we can easily end up with unhelpful and even damaging solutions.
I touched on this in a past blog entry, The Stories We Tell:
The perception that many people have of developing nations, especially in Africa, is extremely inaccurate, and has been for most of history. The narrative that is commonly communicated about the developing world is horribly misleading, and sometimes blatantly false. Most people are genuinely ignorant about the realities of life in developing nations, and see them only through the narrative of poverty and instability. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, we lost someone who was very dear to many of us here at JustUs.
In times of grief, it’s difficult to know what to do with all of the pain, all of the sadness, all of the questions. Usually there are many more questions than answers.
Alicia visited Rwanda with The Elevation Project in 2010, and she was a devoted supporter ever after. We always talked about travelling there together, dreaming of spending our evenings drinking African tea on the Rwandan hillside. She and I were elated to finally make the trip together last summer with the Elevation Experience team of 2017. I still haven’t stopped talking about what a miracle she was on that trip. The warm, loving presence that she emanated was a magnet for stressed out and hurting kids that just needed some comfort. She saw kids exactly where they were at, saw through all the surface anxiety and frustration, and met them exactly where there were. She soothed all of their complicated problems with such simple solutions.
“Take a deep breath in….and now take a deep breath out. Breathe in…breathe out. When was the last time you ate? When was the last time you drank water? Drink some water.” Easy. Continue reading
In the constant mess of American politics today, there is one attitude that saddens me particularly deeply every time it surfaces. This is the truly reprehensible attitude toward non-white countries in the developing world that is openly displayed by the US president and mirrored by so many others.
Now, I have disagreed fiercely with these same people over their handling of many other topics – women, health care, business ethics, police brutality, mass shootings, media, immigration…the list goes on. But the inherently racist and unjust comments disparaging developing countries really hit a nerve for me. In part, this is because I have the great privilege of working in the country of Rwanda,
and now that I know and love so many incredible Rwandans and the beautiful country they call home, I am highly upset at the idea that anyone would look down on them. It may also be that I am unfortunately quite used to blatant misogyny, vocal disdain for the welfare state, NRA crusaders, and more, but I’m not as used to people openly trashing developing countries and the people who live in them. It seemed to me that we were progressing, albeit slowly, toward tolerance and global citizenship – but now that the current US president is championing bigotry, many others who feel the same way seem empowered to be more vocal about it. It feels like we’re moving backward.
Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.
The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.
This past year has been a season of heaviness for many of us as we absorb a seemingly unceasing barrage of bad news from around the world, especially from the United States. This summer I also had the opportunity to make my second visit to the country of Rwanda, where we learned more about the history of genocide and conflict that still affects the people there. Faced with it all, I am dumbfounded. I struggle to comprehend how human beings can treat one another in this way.
Martin Luther King once summarized the state of humanity very well with these words:
“Modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. We’ve learned to fly the air like birds; we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters”.
This past weekend, we Canadians celebrated Canada Day – and not just any Canada Day. This year we celebrated Canada 150 – our 150th anniversary as a country, or in actual fact, as a British colony. As Canadians, we certainly do have much to celebrate. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a democratic, progressive, peaceful nation filled with incredible natural beauty and many wonderful people from diverse backgrounds.
However, the celebrations this year have been surrounded in controversy, with many Canadians expressing their conviction that this anniversary is no cause for celebration at all. In fact, this 150-year milestone shines a light on a darker side of our nation’s history – one of violent, oppressive colonialism and cultural genocide. This is not a story we like to tell, but it is a part of our truth nonetheless.