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Thread: Poverty is closer to our *natural* state

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Poverty is closer to our *natural* state

    Before you flame away, hear me out and try to get a gist of what I'm saying. I can see that the term *natural state* is problematic, but I'll try to explain.

    For almost the entirety of human history people had a basic, subsistence lifestyle. That is the balance between finding enough food to survive and dying was a much thinner one, many people literally did starve, babies died, injuries killed. In a sense we were not far removed from any other animal. Let's just say that this period of human history represents a good..say.. 99.9999999999% of it.

    So in that context we can see that the period of *prosperity* that we're experiencing now seems to be an outlier. Suddenly we have the appearance of progress and rationality because people have nice, warm houses, we have movie theatres, and the like. And in that type of lifestyle and environment we've suddenly re-framed poverty as an *unnatural* state. When people don't have enough to eat, are barely surviving, there's something *wrong* about that .. those people should be rich like the top 1% or whatever.

    And ok, maybe there is something wrong with people being poverty-stricken. In reality we want everyone to be more comfortable and happier, that's a goal we can agree on. But the elephant in the room that we're not asking ourselves is the cost of everyone in the world living in excess of poverty. This seems to be something that ends up on posters, but everyone ignores as long as they have a movie theatre to go to.

    So to take that analogy down to an individual level, imagine person [x] has 100 000 dollars which can easily get him to the end of his life if he only spends 10 000 per year. But because it takes him 25 000 per year to be comfortable and happy, he has four really great years, and six really fucking destitute ones. To me that seems to be what's happening in human history right now.

    The obvious question is how do we change our course so living in excess of poverty is sustainable? The harder question is, is this even possible?

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    Veteran Member NobleSavage's Avatar
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    Subsistence living plain and simply sucks. My family came from farmers who were close to subsistence. No electricity, no running water, kids were born on the farm not in a hospital, you had to shit in an outhouse in the winter, etc. I never lived on the farm, but had the privilege of talking to many who did. They were quick to correct any notion of farm life being romantic. Many took shitty factory jobs for little pay because that was better in their mind.

    If you go backpacking it doesn't take long to figure out "Damn this is really hard" and that is with the added benefit of expensive gear and the knowledge that it's only going to last 5 days.

    Paraphrasing Hobbs, The state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short.

    I can go to the supermarket and spend $5 at the salad bar and get fresh vegetables, fruit, and nuts that only a king of old could dream of.

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    Contributor AthenaAwakened's Avatar
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    Poverty is not what people used to live in. You don't begin to see poverty until you begin to see surplus and the concentration of surplus in the hands of a few. Poverty is a relative term stemming from inequality. If everybody is a hunter/gatherer then there is no inequality, therefore no poverty. It's not an easy life, but without a state to compare it to, it isn't a life of poverty either.
    I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

    The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AthenaAwakened View Post
    Poverty is not what people used to live in. You don't begin to see poverty until you begin to see surplus and the concentration of surplus in the hands of a few. Poverty is a relative term stemming from inequality. If everybody is a hunter/gatherer then there is no inequality, therefore no poverty. It's not an easy life, but without a state to compare it to, it isn't a life of poverty either.
    I don't know.

    Here's a quick definition:

    the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
    I think you could apply that definition to historical societies .. but then .. even if you don't want to, that doesn't change the premise of the thread .. we'd just have to use words other than 'poverty' to describe our meaning.

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    Senior Member Davka's Avatar
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    One definition of poverty is that it is not a lack of money or possessions, but rather a lack of options. When the shit hits the fan, do you have a wealth of choices for dealing with it, or are you pretty much SOL? Hunter-gatherers can follow the food and the good weather - in fact, that's how we humans got spread all over the planet; by exercising our options.

    Poverty happens when groups of people start hoarding power to the detriment of others. A tribe that controls the water-holes or the hunting-grounds is building wealth by stealing options from other tribes. The problem has never been that there isn't enough to go around. The problem is that some people want everything they can get their hands on, and they don't care if other people get hurt by their acquisitiveness.

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    Senior Member Davka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    I don't know.

    Here's a quick definition:

    the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
    I think you could apply that definition to historical societies .. but then .. even if you don't want to, that doesn't change the premise of the thread .. we'd just have to use words other than 'poverty' to describe our meaning.
    When I was 19, I was robbed at gunpoint down in southern Oaxaca. They took literally everything but the clothes on my back. My wallet, my backpack, my sleeping-bag, my I.D., my cash - everything. The next day I made my way into town and made a collect call to my Dad to ask for help. Then I headed over to hotel row and started asking American tourists for cash, explaining that I'd been robbed. Within 3 days I was back in the USA, warm & dry with a full belly.

    At one point a kid walked up and tried to sell me some sopapillas (yum!) from a tray. I told him I had no money, and turned my pockets inside-out to show him. He looked at me like I was from another planet - a gringo with no money? Such a thing is impossible!

    That boy had pesos in his pocket, and food on a tray. I had nothing. But while he was unmistakably poor, selling homemade food to tourists instead of going to school, I - with nothing but the clothes on my back - was wealthy. Not because I have family who can help, either - I could have begged my way back to the USA, depending on the kindness of fellow Americans. No, I was (and am) wealthy because I had the good fortune to be born white, male, and a citizen of the USA. Poverty is a whole lot deeper than a simple lack of resources.

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    Before we go down the path of politicizing the word 'poverty' .. can I go back and start the thread again?

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    Senior Member Davka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Before we go down the path of politicizing the word 'poverty' .. can I go back and start the thread again?
    It's not a case of politicizing, but rather of defining accurately. I've lived below the poverty line all my life, but I've never been truly poor. I can life my life pretty much however I want. Poor people can't.

    If you want to start the thread over, you're going to have to define your terms. What exactly is it that you're trying to point to? The natural state in which animals live, without possessions? Or are you talking about need, hunger, lack of power, lack of education, and all the other things that keep so many people in a state of perpetual struggle and suffering?

    It's an important distinction. Is a monk who has taken a vow of poverty really "poor"? How about a billionaire who is captured by terrorists and forced to live in a filthy hole, eating swill - is he rich?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AthenaAwakened View Post
    Poverty is not what people used to live in. You don't begin to see poverty until you begin to see surplus and the concentration of surplus in the hands of a few. Poverty is a relative term stemming from inequality. If everybody is a hunter/gatherer then there is no inequality, therefore no poverty. It's not an easy life, but without a state to compare it to, it isn't a life of poverty either.
    So starving is only a problem if you're aware it's a problem???

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    The obvious question is how do we change our course so living in excess of poverty is sustainable? The harder question is, is this even possible?
    Birth control.

    If the population grows freely it will always expand to the point that just about everyone is in poverty. That's why it's our natural state. The only way to avoid it is to keep our population well below that point.

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