There was a debate awhile back on World Have Your Say in which the topic of helping out the poor was the major element of discussion. As usual what you had was a bunch of opinions that strictly concerned the issue at hand and not the full scale of the problem.
This is about as complicated of a concept as can be mauled over. The post is long, I am sorry, but it has to be.
I have said before on this blog that I have an education and background in system design. The first thing you do when developing, correcting, or improving a system is ask, what is its purpose? So what is the purpose of the human race? There are some variations depending upon religion and philosophical perspectives. The quintessential “what’s the meaning of life?” Any other sub objectives are arguable. Only one thing is certain. All living things seek to propagate and expand their species for as many generations as they can.
Every system has “constraints”. These are a set of rules that are dictated by physical limitations of the process. Violating these rules will eventually “crashes the system”. Since humanity is a perpetual system, meaning that the parts it produces is used by the system to continue functioning, violating constraints has an added danger. Breaking the rules leads to inferior parts that will also be the undoing of the system. To further complicate matters, the human race keeps improving, and parts that were once considered “inside tolerance” in previous cycles, are no longer acceptable for use.
So what are these constraints? No matter how you believe that this system got kick started, generally the rules were those called out by Darwin that we know as “survival of the fittest”. How the human race differs from all other species is that we have evolved to a point where physical strength is not the predominate factor in determining “the fittest”. Intellect and social skills has surpassed brute strength as how to determine who the most fit humans are. (Let us face it, if Stephen Hawking was a deer, no matter how smart he was, he would be a goner already.) The majority successful humans have a combination of intellect and social skills or “social capital”. Social capital is advancements made by previous generations that have improved the position of the person. (Paris Hilton is an example of somebody who has no exceptional intellect and owes her success completely to social capital. She has extended her success by developing her own social skills.)
These attributes are apparent in other species, but in most cases strength is still the superior quality. Even with our evolved brain, we look for characteristics of strength when choosing mates. There is one other technique for sustaining generations when either natural enemies are too great or a period of natural disaster or disease plagues a species. The species can choose to breed. For a time, in certain situation this can temporarily improve the chances of the herd, but it can not be sustained.
Every complex system has subsystems. These subsystems have their own purpose and functions relevant to the overall system. These interdependent processes have various and changing relativity to the purpose. In an evolving system, these minor processes and/ or some of their parts become obsolete. (For example wood has been replaced by gasoline in an automobile.) Accepting these adaptations is pertinent to continuing evolution of the system, and by extension in this case improving the lifecycle. In our most undeveloped form of the Human race this mechanism is most often the first response.
The most important thing about system maintenance is that one must recognize that any changes made to any one part of a system will have some kind of an affect on the rest of system. Anytime a change is made, the designers must consider what affect it might have on every other piece. Not doing so can bring the whole system down.
So what does this have to do with “poor people” in the human race? They are an inefficiency in the system. Weaknesses are not always caused by the part themselves. As I mentioned positive changes to one part can adversely affect other parts of the system. Then a benefit to disadvantage analysis must be conducted. (Here is where it gets really complicated and most people start to just focus on the symptom instead of the cause.) Impoverished people may be the result of other factors. For some reason they have not developed the intellect and social skills to become “successful”. Sometimes it is the result of not enough energy being dedicated to them. Other times, which I think may be more often be the problem of poverty, there is an inappropriate amount of products for the system to function properly. Let’s use the example of an auto assembly line system. If the line can produce 1 million cars per year, but the purchasing agent buys 2 million carburetors per year, then there is an overstock of carburetors. The warehouse will fill and eventually the so factory will be cluttered with carburetors that nothing will be able to move in it.
So let me make my point a little easier. Impoverished countries with wide scale hunger, disease, and disasters have broken systems. They consume more resources then they add back to the system for some reason. In a system that is meant to be perpetual, this is a “leak”. Generally that means that either the population must be allowed to dwindle or, they must find a way to become a self-sustaining at their desired population level. Just as pouring fluid into a leaky system only leads to a bigger leak, so is feeding the hungry of a impoverished society only going to make more hungry.
So I guess on a micro scale I think of it like this. I see a poor starving child on TV and my heart does break. But I am left with the question, “If I send him/ or her money for food and it is enough to sustain? them for the rest of their lives, what then? Will he/ she just have more offspring that then will also need sent resources? Let us say in Africa, they live in a desert where food and water are not and never will be plentiful. Will these children that are saved promise not to have children unless they can provide these necessities? I not only doubt it, but history has proven it not to be true.
Remember the basic prime directive of the individual part, the person, in the system is to propagate another generation. The more technologically ignorant they are, the more apt they are to carry out that task without regard to consequences. With their last breath, they will breed. They will attempt to fill the leak by adding more. Correcting the system will require finding a way to educate these populations that only when they know how they are going to feed themselves can they then think about having children. Those who think it is cruel or selfish to not feed the poor and hungry of the world are well intentioned, but misguided. Allowing these people to survive only to make more children who will suffer is far more cruel. How many more children have been brought into this world only to suffer their parents hunger and disease?
Likewise, in the US, the problem isn’t that we can not sustain people with food shelter, and clothing. All over people will tell you that our poor people are the richest in the world. In our little “subsystem” we require more highly refined parts. These people often lack education, self-discipline, and/ or motivation. Our purpose is defined by our culture. We require more refined parts then in other parts of the world. It isn’t about just carrying on bodies, but ideals into the next generation. On our part as a community we need to educate and even encourage self discipline. On the part of the poor, just as in any other part of the world, they must learn not to have offspring they have no self staining plan to support. As the lowest denominator of our system grows or doesn’t evolve, it weakens our system and threatens to crash the whole thing.