Peeking at Poverty


Yesterday, a guest blogger wrote an article for The Nicaragua Dispatch. It infuriated me because of her overly simplified view of poverty in Nicaragua and the United States. Blaming the poor for their circumstances offers no real solution and only perpetuates the fallacy that all one has to do to rise above poverty is to work a little harder and not succumb to the temptation of accepting hand outs.

I try to avoid rants. I really don’t like controversy, but there are times when my ire gets the best of me. This is one of those times.

“Do Handouts Really Help Anyone in Nicaragua?” Click here for the article. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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15 thoughts on “Peeking at Poverty

  1. Wow she is really naive! I are she is young thoug, a student. Hopefully she will learn over time that her viewpoint is wrong and poverty is a much more complicated subject and really can’t be compared to poverty in the US.

  2. I am all for ranting Deb! In this case, an ill-informed young woman of privilege basically freaked out seeing poverty. she ought to check many of the rural areas of the USA where poverty is rampant. Granted the standard of poverty is measured in dollars, but lets not forget there is no government welfare or food stamps here. Many of the poorer persons cannot work, cannot find work (economic growth issues) and there are those in all societies who do not want to work, preferring to be given to by others. Same old story for many centuries. As an individual, I know that to give is up to me. How much, I never calculate. I give, or I don’t. Give till it hurts! why not? Pay what you want to pay for services. Share the wealth and never expect a thanks. Giving is it’s own reward. As to the American Dream? More of an American Nightmare right now as the world is interdependent economically and no one country is totally self-sustaining any longer. So, the Why’s of poverty are age-old questions. How far back would you like to go to delve into causes? Does it really matter why when a kid is hungry, or an elderly befuddled woman needs some pesos? I doubt it.

  3. Well really, thank you Debbie for taking on another tough subject that we all – very much including myself – need to keep checking ourselves on.

  4. We are talking about a very complicated and tragic subject that combines both personal and social factors which were obviously very hard for the article’s young writer to digest (no pun intended.) Her mixture of compassion with damaging stereotypes was probably more a self-defense mechanism than an effort to injure.
    To be honest, all of us likely go through a mix of thoughts and emotions when we encounter “street people” and have to decide how to respond. I’ve also become more reluctant to give “hand-outs” without being certain the impacts would be as intended. I’ve even grown to include things like level of tipping in my considerations since someone pointed out to me that some young Granada waiters make more than lawyers and doctors. While I want them also to do well for their labor, I also want them to aspire to something better if possible.
    There is such a thing as welfare dependency that needs to be avoided. But there is also our shared community or world in which if we do not care for our neighbor we will eventually be impacted in some way – whether it be through say crime or just the cold that can overtake our own hearts.
    I expect the answer has to be in real structural and institutional change. Yet that is often equally difficult in a world that is often corrupt and bureaucratic (BTW I’m thinking of U.S. as well as Nicaragua.) But there are also success stories which the selfish or cynical like to deny.
    In the end, we have to each do what we can in a spirit of helping your neighbor in life achieve a better longer-term place – just like someone undoubtedly has helped us at some point in life.
    But there are no guarantees and we should all fight against temptation to view situations, and each other simplistically.

    • Jon,

      I want to offer my heartfelt and sincere thanks for your response to one of the most troubling problems in our world today. Your words were a gift to me..honest, powerful, and passionate. You made no unsupported assumptions, like I sometimes do in a moment of wrath, and your comments spoke to my heart. YOU make this world a little better through your clear, focused, and objective comments. Thank you, Jon!

  5. It is unfortunate that some human beings are the way they are, I tell people you can not judge until you have walked in their shoes, some people are born into a life of privilage without the slightest idea of the misery this world has, but it is soooo easy for them to point fingers and yet they go through life thinking they’re better than other people, I am pretty sure she got a lot of stuff from her parents, but the people such as Andrea are the ones that are really miserable inside

  6. I read that article and find that it depends on the person. There are people accepting government assistance and they are quite reluctant to do so. Others who wouldn’t mind that assistance and not wanting to even change the status quo. Poverty is not a state we want to be in. Yet there are people whose accustomed to poverty anything but is hard to relate to. Everyone inherent strives to do and be better yet if they have never known anything but what is…the idea of anything but poverty is a novelty. I believe education is key. Yes there are people who are lazy and wouldn’t mind continual assistance but it is not per country/circumstance. It is the character of the person. The writer of the aforementioned article does not have a comprehensive view, only to a select area of Granada. I have been to Granada and find the street kids working hard for their money. To give and help should always be from the heart regardless if its money or material things. We can only do what we believe will help. It is beyond our ability to comment on what others will do. Handouts are available but it is up to us to utilize it effectively. Do we know how? We can take advantage of the handouts for temporary assistance and move beyond the need for it. But definitely there are those who’ll continue to accept even when the need is gone. The u.s. government and food stamps are a perfect example. We try to circumvent so people will continue to have food stamps even when the need is not there anymore. Pure greed? Or …
    Definitely i believe poverty is not a state a person continues to want to be in. But the acceptance of handouts is another story.

    • Cassie,

      I think you have hit the nail on the head. Andrea’s article peeked at the issue of entitlements. Begging is a huge problem in Nicaragua. I tend to agree that handing money to outstretched hands will not solve the problem. There are those who take advantage of the welfare system in the USA, but I honestly think they are in the minority. Thanks for your thoughts, Cassie. You always make me think!

  7. I understand your frustration. This is so big, I am at a loss. Maybe it is time for the serenity prayer-
    I am really jammed up here, trying to finish my business so I can get back. It is WAY worse,living up here in the middle of all of it.

  8. It is just another form of ‘Blaming the victim’.
    A very superficial response to a very complcated situatuon!
    Love & peace!

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