threads stretched to breaking
frayed ends refuse needle’s eye
blame fixed on ravel
needle stands sharply
fixing her eye on frayed ends
ignoring the plank
Daily Haiku #17
Word Challenge: ravel
The Haiku Challenge
The Structural Roots of Poverty
Structures are influential beyond measure, organizing and controlling our society and providing stability to human interactions. Most systems are not inherently good or evil, but they do have tremendous power for good and evil. When structures function to advantage the strong rather than empower the vulnerable, they are particularly resistant to change (pp. 4-5).
A vast web of structures, both at micro and macro levels, interact to keep millions of people poor, hungry, and powerless.
At the local and national levels, weak governance systems may be plagued by problems such corruption, cronyism, lack of transparency, accountability, bureaucratic capacity, respect for the rule of law, etc. These problems often result in governance systems that do not meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable in society. For example, the state may fail in its responsibility to provide essential public services such as education, health care, and sanitation. It may perpetuate unjust economic policies or land tenure systems that only benefit the wealthy. A weak state may even fail in its primary responsibility to protect the lives of its own civilians from non-state actors, such as rebel groups, and/or state actors, such military and police security forces.
At the international level, global systems of trade, aid, and debt have a tremendous impact on who is wealthy and who lives in poverty; who will be fed and who will go hungry.
Using the example of trade, high-income countries have often failed to recognize how their trade policies create a barrier to local agricultural production and food security in low-income countries. For instance, in order to keep a market for their farm products, Western governments often subsidize grain sales abroad at a loss during periods of surplus production, when world supplies were high and prices low. While the subsidies are important for domestic farmers, this cheap food, in turn, has made it unprofitable for farmers in poor countries to produce food for local consumption, which has forced many people to stop farming food crops altogether. Moreover, Western countries reduce the subsidized sale of food when world supplies are low, compelling these low-income nations who are now dependent on food imports to purchase grain in the world market when prices are the highest (p. 18).
In our own country, there is also a web of structures that makes it hard to overcome poverty. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, culture/language, legal status (restorative justice, immigration) etc. at many levels still oppresses many in our society. Elderly people in the United States have difficulty paying for medication and hospital visits. Students at inner-city schools have fewer resources and begin life with a disadvantage.
There are also structures, however well-intentioned, that make it hard to become self-sufficient. Low-income housing is built in large complexes, concentrating and magnifying the problems caused by poverty.
Welfare laws are so complex and change so often that just staying in the system is a full-time job. And there is a huge gap of unmet needs when one moves off welfare. For example, if a single mother gets a minimum-wage job (a success), she loses her assistance. Her income is not enough live on, and she is left with no medical insurance and the cost of childcare (From Banner article "Tripping Over Lazarus")