The Culture of Poverty - Sociopolitical dynamics that perpetuate poverty and the interrelatedness of religious dominance and poverty in the world economy.
There are three sociological elements that are inseparable. Once you find one in a society, the other two must stare you right in the face. These three elements are:
1. Poor governance
3. Dominance of Religion
How do these three elements play out in dictating the destiny of the people in a community? What are the sociological relationships between them, and what can we learn?
How can we use this to understand the social situations in regions like Africa, Middle East, South and Central America and South Asia, and how we can translate the knowledge to create better societies.
To understand these sociological dynamics that perpetuate themselves in our experience and create a pattern that lock us up in a cycle of confusion, we must start from this assertion that:
There are three sets of power which are inherent to all humans and must not be inhibited by any means. This power set can also be called personal political power - power to govern oneself and make meaning of life for the sake of the community.
These power set include:
1. Power to make wealth - enterprise & creativity & pursuit of happiness
2. Power to be safe - security & life
3. Power to be free - liberty
Though this power set is "personal political power", but we ceded it to the people who are in charge of our collective destiny - those who design policies that govern our socioeconomic existence through the formation of government in democracy. Others also took the power from us by force through an authoritarian form of government.
Since our human life was structured as a community, at that same time, we agreed to express these personal political powers through communal will and that "will" is controlled by the “political class”. This means we can only operate businesses through sets of rules and regulations we all agree upon or agreed upon for us by our representatives in government. We can only ensure our safety as long as it ensures the safety of others in the community. Our happiness cannot violate the rights of others. We are a community and our will is governed and controlled by the political class.
The political class governs the affairs of the group - of the community. Once the policies or activities of the political class ( those who make laws that guide our communal existence) take away or make it difficult for individuals to express their “personal political power” - to make wealth, to be safe, and to be free, it breeds restlessness and a sense of overwhelming powerlessness.
Humans cannot be without the power to be in charge of their lives, especially in terms of creative effort to create wealth or be safe or be free. These three inherence are necessary for meaningful existence, else powerlessness and hopelessness which later result in social poverty. Without a sense of power man feels lost and hopeless. And once man feels powerless mentally, he loses control over his life.
Since poor governance alienates people from their personal political power and denies them right to live and since man cannot live without power to be in charge of his life, he looks for an alternative power source in a move that is called “balance of power”. The most obvious alternatives are religion or "get rich quick" schemes and ideas (example is how people were conned of their wealth and resources in the 14-16th century Europe when con men peddled the idea of philosopher's stone and unimaginable wealth during economic instability and citizen repression).
This is the ultimate relationship- where you see poor governance, you must meet with poverty amongst the majority of the people and where you see poverty, you must encounter the dominance of religion of any type. All you need to do is to look through ancient history to modern times and you will find overwhelming evidences.
The reason for dominance of religion in poor societies is that religion promises in one form or shape the return of the inherent "personal political power" to individuals who would commit to certain rituals even when "some" of the promises are illusory.
Religion promises hope, and if the promises or hope cannot be fulfilled on earth, religion promises the gain in the after life. Example is the idea of heaven laced with gold. Since gold was discovered by man it has never been for common people, it is the element of the kings and political class. It is the desire of common man to have it to feel like a king too. And gold symbolizes power to wealth so we all desire it because it's our nature. Common man covets gold. Unfortunately, our society is designed to make that dream hard to achieve in this world, so it is easy for humans to believe in the idea of gold acquisition in the afterlife.
What we cannot have on earth because of poor governance have been laced into religion as a promise in the afterlife. This is common to most religions and makes it easy for the hopeful soul to surrender.
Man will seek to balance power or try to recapture his personal political power through other means if the path is blocked by the political class, even if the promises of the power are illusory. Smart political leaders have tapped into this as a strategy and appeal to the heart of the people through populist ideas and campaign for revolution - the taking of power back from the elite and establishment so that ordinary people can have a say in the policies that govern them. We have seen how populism is catching fire across the world. In most cases such call for revolution and retake of power leaves people in the same worse place because the call is not genuine. At times it is to satisfy the interest of another class of people looking for power. But people fall for this scheme most times because they want a balance of power and any form of revolution is appealing. But if they see this type of revolution as too risky, they mostly become complacent and turn to religion for succour.
Bad governance makes people vulnerable to exploitative schemes of the political class in religion, business and politics who are smart enough to exploit human psychology to their advantages.
The antidote to bad and dangerous forms of religion - not all aspect of religion is bad and dangerous - is good governance which is return and assurance of personal political power to the people to make wealth, be safe and be free.
Look at these regions where there is dominance of religion - Africa, Middle East, Central and South America, South Asia ( i.e India, Bangladesh & Pakistan and you'd find poverty, violation of human rights and insecurity which are products of poor governance. A government that designs the society in a way that it is difficult for its citizen to make wealth, a government that cannot keep its citizens safe and a government that creates a culture where the rights of the people can be easily violated mostly creates a pattern of destruction and hopelessness.
Religion is not the culprit but it is a beneficiary of a system created by poor governance. A "culture" of poor governance makes man and society vulnerable to some religion’s illusory promises, exploitation and manipulation.
Once a society or a people can have the power to make wealth, be safe and be free, they will make meaning of their lives and will then decide if some of the promises of power and hope through religion are necessary or not.
The founding fathers of America knew the secret of enduring societies when they wrote it on humanity’s consciousness that...
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life [power to be safe], Liberty [power to be free] and the pursuit of Happiness [power to make wealth]. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…”
The worst disease that can befall man is poor governance. Religion doesn't necessarily make people gullible. People at times become gullible and conforming to dangerous exploitative religious schemes because poor governance puts them in a vulnerable sociopsychological and economic state, and boxes them into a corner to be extorted by certain appealing forces that can be found in religion, business & politics of the land.
To change the world, we must change the culture of governance starting from our homes and it starts with all of us.
"GALLUP SURVEY - Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nation."
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