More and more the tides of separation and division in America is shifting the way it shows up. Throughout our history we have found countless reasons to perpetuate our division from one another. Everything from Race, Religion, Sports Teams, States, School Pride, Sexuality, Gender and the list goes on and on and on. Some seem fairly innocuous while others have gridlocked our cultural and social evolution as a country.
However, there seems to be one thing that’s really dominating the narrative more than it has in quite some time. In fact, it pervades every one of the above mentioned areas of division and has long been the greatest dividing force in human history. The great division of our age? Economic Status.
We have fought for years and years to break down these barriers. From the civil rights, human rights and gender and marriage equality the most influential piece of the puzzle has always been money. So you may be saying, “Brian, we know all this already. It’s super obvious.” Sure it is… but have you stopped to consider that as we advance our nation we come to find all of these people in a position to be a part of the economic class that happens to dominate your own?
That’s right. We now have rich Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Women, Homosexuals, Transsexuals, Transgenders, Catholics, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, SC Trojans, Florida Gators, Texans, Floridians, and of course… the list goes on.
The reason I mention this is because economic fortitude is the greatest differentiation there is among human beings. Especially here in America. When we worship the idea of having power and property to such a degree that one person can park their car on their boat and head topside to get in a chopper and fly to their penthouse apartment while 40 people wonder where they will sleep tonight or get their next meal from that’s a problem that needs healing… just like any of the other ones we’ve been working on that I mentioned above.
That 1/40 ratio I seemingly tossed out there isn’t just a random one to make my point. The image below is a great way to depict the nature of this problem. While we have a small group of people who are so wealthy they will never have to think about money ever again in their lives if they don’t want to we have a huge group of people who have to think about it almost every waking moment of their entire lives.
I know it makes us feel much better to just associate poverty with hard work. To say, “Those people need to pull themselves up by the boot straps and go to school and get a better job and work work work work work!” but as one of my favorite scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us, “Some people have no boots.”
Poverty, like an illness, is something that strikes people. For some they are born with this disease. For others it can be a devastating and unpredictable affliction. For others still it is something from which they run until the last second of their lives by working hard until they’re in the twilight years of their life. Is this really what we want?
I’ve heard a million reasoning for this to persist and yet none strike me as being responsible. Everything from “Keeping people motivated” to “Not wanting to take care of freeloaders” they all have one thing in common. They forget to account for the humanity of the people about whom they are speaking.
Poverty is no different than any of the other social issues that separate us. It causes us to fear each other, withhold our good, judge and condemn one another and even invites us to ignore and neglect one another. When we back away from the problem it’s easy to see that dealing with it is no different than dealing with any of the other cultural and social issues we face today. What kind of a country (or workd for that matter) do we want to live in?
For me… I have no desire to make a limit to the success that anyone can achieve. Rather, I’m interested in making sure there is a limit to the depths of poverty to which one can be subjected. This isn’t about creating a cieling for personal achievement. It’s about making sure there is a sturdy foundation below which no one ever has to say goodnight to a starving child.