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Wealth and Poverty

Apart from conventional beliefs, a nation with less wealth is not necessarily a nation of deprived individuals. Conversely, having more wealth expressed in terms of income and property (i. e. GDP and GNP) does not translate to greater well-being of the populace. Poverty is affected not merely by economic factors but also of social and cultural environment, affecting the general quality of people’s life. Poverty is a multidimensional problem. On the most basic level, it is characterized by the lack of access to primary needs like food, safe water, shelter, health care, education and security.

Then, it impairs an individual’s right to a broad spectrum of choices and liberties especially those that will affect one’s future and the kind of life he or she wants to pursue. Those people living in the throes of poverty are living a life filled with insecurity, vulnerability, powerlessness and a degraded quality of existence. Another way of defining poverty is to look into its antithesis. Anup Shah (2006) of Global Issues has the following views with regards to successful development: it means access to basic needs, an environment of overall stability, and an equal chance to owning land and property.

An ideal, poverty-free society encourages democratic participation and does not hamper the right to make educated decisions which are free from oppression and harassment. It also adheres to the United Nation’s guidelines to Human Development. World poverty has its roots in the socio-cultural structures of nations that date back to the age of colonization and imperialism. Thus, one of the myths that surround poverty is that poor, developing countries are caught in the ‘vicious trap’ with no chance of liberation. Walter B.

Williams (2003) of the George Mason University asserts that this is one of the greatest lies, as rich nations surely are not born rich. As a teacher of economics, he states that this belief enslaves poor nations to the foreign aids extended by industrialized ones, making them even more dependent and indebted. These development funds, from the viewpoints of analysts, are just means to protect existing corrupt systems and to preserve tyrants and crooks in their positions. Williams (2003) and Lappe with her colleagues (1998) dispute the correlation made between population and poverty.

Hunger is a result of inequities in societies where “land ownership, jobs, education, health care, and old age security are beyond the reach of most people” (Lappe, Collins, Rosset & Esparza, 1998). Williams stressed that the citizens are a nation’s ultimate wealth, but only with proper investments. He cited Hong Kong and Taiwan as ideal examples. They have higher population densities than China, but are more progressive than the latter because of their economic policies and more educated populace. Being poor, far from the sentiments of the upper and the middle classes, does not happen by choice or is a product of a person’s sheer laziness.

This is one of the common misconceptions because poverty occurs from the lack opportunities and tools for success, not because the individual is a failure. The world’s current production of food and resources is actually enough to feed the whole planet and to make everyone live comfortably. The problem is that these wealth are concentrated among the powerful few. Inequality cannot be separated from the concept of poverty, and with other societal issues. There are different kinds of inequality but one of the most prevalent, besides the ones previously mentioned economic disparity, is that of racial and ethnic origin.

Racial and ethnic inequalities result from the recognition of physical or cultural differences between groups and attaching social definitions to them. For instance, black and Hispanic students are usually stigmatized as poor in class relative to their Asian and White counterparts. Richard Anderson (2000) from the University of Colorado at Denver confirmed that African American Air Force trainees fare not quite as good with the other students because of the (white) instructors’ alleged lack of faith in their capacities. They are not given as much opportunity to take risk, which is an integral part in their course.

Another form of inequality is one inflicted among women. Although prevalent in the Third Worlds of Africa and Asia, gender inequality is definitely a worldwide phenomenon. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (2001) presented the “many faces of gender inequality” in his works. The seven types are mortality inequality, natality inequality, basic facility inequality, special opportunity inequality, professional inequality, ownership inequality and household inequality. For modern societies, women’s oppressions typically include the burden of maintaining career and home at the same, as well as roadblocks to occupational or educational success.

However, in traditional cultures where women are viewed as mere second-class citizens, domestic abuse, abortion of female babies and foetal-sex change becomes the problem. Just like women, non-heterosexual persons like gays, lesbians, transsexuals and transgender individuals are common victims of inequalities. Often referred to as societal problems due to a person’s sexual orientations, Lucianne Englert (2005) of Indiana University wrote that injustices faced by these people are present everywhere, from work and housing discrimination to lack of tax benefits akin to state-recognized marriages.

Gay bashings, legal separation from their children and revoked rights to HIV status privacy also occurs. Sexual orientation problems are different from other social problems because gays and lesbians are not securely protected by the Constitution. “There are no civil rights for homosexuals” according to Judith Roof of IU, “Civil rights protection for non-heterosexuals tend to be seen as gifts rather than rights derived from the Constitution . . . the powers that grant them also have the right to wrest those rights away.

” (Englert, 2005) Poverty and inequality are two of the greatest problems afflicting the world today. They bore the greatest effect on human lives and cannot be separated from other ails afflicting society. Once the public collectively attach labels to the traits distinctive of a particular group or gender, behaviour towards this group is altered. This will eventually shape their roles in the community. The adverse affect of this may range from overt, like a denied admission to a good university, or subtle, like slower customer services.

Generally, their parity right to resources and opportunities is breached and due to the differential treatment, they are involuntarily segregated as unwanted members of the population.


Anderson, R. H. (2000). Racial and Ethnic Inequality. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2007 at: http://carbon. cudenver. edu/public/sociology/introsoc/topics/ UnitNotes/week07. html Englert, L. (2005). Sexual Orientation. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2007 at: http://www. indiana. edu/~rcapub/v18n2/p23. html Lappe, F. M. , Collins, J. , Rosset, P. , & Esparza, L. , (1998). World Hunger:12 Myths. Retrieved Nov.

26, 2007 at: http://www. foodfirst. org/pubs/ backgrds/1998/s98v5n3. html Shah, A. (2006, January 28). Poverty Around the World. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2007 at: http://www. globalissues. org/TradeRelated? poverty/AroundTheWorld. asp Sen, A. (2001). Many Faces of Gender Inequality. Frontline 18(22) Retrieved Nov. 26, 2007 at: http://www. flonnet. com/fl1822/18220040. htm William, W. E. (2003, January 22). Poverty Myths. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2007 at: http://www. townhall. com/print/print_story. php? sid=169079&loc=/opinion/ columns/ walterwilliams/2003/01/22/169079. html

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