EDITORIAL: On being our poor brother’s real keeper
For ye have the poor always with you . . . . – Matthew 26:11
This remark of Jesus has been used cavalierly to excuse away poverty, or to be presented as some balm for the helplessness of political regimes in empowering their destitute.
But long before Jesus came to this earth, the Almighty had said: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
There was the divine order that those of us with the means ought to look out for the underprivileged.
For ages then many have been the attempt to eliminate poverty – at least bring comfort to those in its grips.
Yet, poverty persists.
Where successive Governments of Barbados have done their damnedest to improve the lives of citizens, there has ever been new cases of want, no matter the successes in other circumstances. In the current world recession, increased need then would not be unreasonable to expect.
So that while on the surface of it the leap from 8.7 per cent poverty in 1998 to 19.3 per cent in 2010 is striking, it must not to be taken out of context, and least of of all politicized out of all rationality. The reason for poverty, says some sociologists and most politicians, is that people simply don’t have enough money.
But successive Governments have done much in getting more money to the poorer among us, by way of tax relief, reverse taxes, welfare payments, and non-payment for social services like health. And where Governments may have pussyfooted on a more practical minimum wage, the unions have argued for and sustained better wages in part.
So what if we did get the powers that be to guarantee a new minimum wage and by extension a new minimal standard of living? Barbados is not exactly unknown for going where no other country has gone before for the good of its people.
The most optimistic of poverty programmes may yet fall short. There is no cut and dried solution to the problem; so we can shed the political partisanship and as a people collar poverty and try to choke the hell out of it.
Often the condition of the poor is not their fault. And if such neediness in our lesser fortunate brothers and sisters can arouse compassion in God, what then of everyone of us better off?
We owe it to God to ring true Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:20-21)
Politicians don’t have all the answers.