Once again, a major catastrophic event focuses the world's attention to a blight that affects millions: oppressive poverty. The question remains, will something be done this time, or will life go on – business as usual?
Haiti was formerly a Spanish possession, founded by Christopher Columbus in 1492 as part of the island of Hispaniola. Since that time, it has been occupied at various times and for different reasons by the Spanish, French, English & Americans. Haiti was the first country in human history to gain its independence as a result of a successful slave revolt. However, its history is littered with dictatorships that diverted vital resources and money into the hands of a few greedy men.
First lesson from Haiti: Poverty exists because we allow it to do so. Haiti is only a microcosm of what is going on at this moment around the world. Check out these statistics, provided by the World Health Organization:
In the past, mankind developed the technology which successfully sent astronauts to the moon. In the past ten years, clever inventors developed thumb sized mp3 players that store and play thousands of tunes. Also in this same time period, the world has shrunk drastically because of “smart” PDA cellphones that not only allow us to call any location in the world, but also pass along information, ideas, multimedia, etc. in seconds! However, even in these technological triumphs, we appear 'helpless” to deal with the critical problem of world-wide poverty.
Lesson two from Haiti: As long as greed & corruption exist in the world, so will poverty. Eighty percent of Haitians earn an average of $760 per year, or $2 per day! However, as bad as this sounds, there are 36 countries in the world where the average is less than Haiti's! The worst country is Burundi, with an average of $100 per year, or 27 cents per day, per person!
The average Mexican that works in one of the foreign – owned factories makes an average of $400 per month. However, minimally, it costs $600 to live a life with “no frills” – just covering the basics only. And yet, these corporations are generating “huge” profits for their shareholders and more than generous bonuses for executive management. Corporate greed is alive and well in Mexico – as well as in every country in which poverty is a major problem.
Everybody knows that political corruption is a problem world – wide. However, it is magnified a thousand fold in the Third World. Former Haitian Dictator Jean - Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier's lavish wedding cost 3 million dollars back in 1980. Between 1971 when he succeeded his father to 1986 when he went into exile, it is estimated that Baby Doc embezzled 504 million dollars from the Haitian Treasury. To this day, he has never been prosecuted.
Lesson three from Haiti: As long as our priorities are scrambled, poverty will continue to exist!
There is not a single human on this planet that is worth over a million dollars a year (in some cases, a billion per year). This is especially true when other human beings are starving to death. The list includes: business executives who garner millions per year in “bonuses”; sports celebrities that make millions in salary for playing a “game”; actors & musicians that make millions per movie or album. These priorities are fatally flawed. However, since this is the "reality", then to whom "much is given, much is required". God will judge millionaires based on how they have used their wealth.
But “skewed” priorities are not limited to individuals only. For instance, while 18 million people die annually from poverty's effects, millions of dollars are spent in the construction of a new church building to worship Jesus Christ! While he was on earth, Christ ministered to the poor and the oppressed! He did not divert badly needed monies to build monuments to himself!
In conclusion, the earthquake in Haiti that has killed as high as 100,000 people is a horrible tragedy – no doubt about it. However, if we continue in our “ignorant bliss” and allow 18 million people to die annually in poverty, then Haiti's victims will have died in vain.
I do not believe in the notion that there is only so much money in the world and the United States & the other industrialized countries have more than their fair share. I believe that there is plenty of wealth to be generated. But, it is quite obvious from the extent of the poverty that the "status quo" is not working, and something must be done. This is a quote from my dear friend, Dr. John Armstrong:
“You are right, but the story is also related to the question of helping people rise both economically and socially. It is rooted in spiritual reality but it transcends the normal categories of religion as we know it. The problem, however, is not that people make millions here. I do not accept the notion that the pie is just so big and if America takes too much others suffer. This kind of economic theory is positively destructive and wrong yet very common. If we make too much we hurt others. No, make a lot and give a lot and teach others how to do it as well. Free markets, used ethically and rightly, are the big solution. In the US our markets are now falling apart not because we made a lot of money but because we lost the discipline of living well.” In a future post, I will explore these solutions in depth. As for Haiti, please make a donation to help them survive until reconstruction begins.