Who knew poverty got its own holiday? Not me, but apparently it did — 20 years ago, too. How the hell have I managed to miss every single International Day for the Eradication of Poverty since 1987? It just doesn't seem possible.
One answer might be that it originated in France. And you know us Americans — if it's French and it doesn't have 13% alcohol per volume or big floppy tits, get it the fuck away. Twenty years ago, 100,000 people gathered in Paris to honor victims of poverty worldwide. They laid a stone in the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza which reads:
Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.
Five years later, the United Nations caught on and recognized the day.
It's a nice idea. Like most nice ideas that run in opposition to the established order of the world, it seems to have done absolutely no good. Has worldwide poverty been reduced even slightly in the last twenty years? Has the number of people on planet Earth trapped in hopeless, grinding destitution decreased even a little bit? I suspect the answer to both questions is "No." And whose fault is that? Not Mother Theresa; she's been dead for ten years, so we can't blame her any longer for making poverty look like so much fun that people don't want to escape it.
Personally, I blame rich people. Not mere millionaires, though I'd bet most of them could afford to donate a bit more to their local soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity chapter than they do. No, I'm talking about the super-duper-mega-rich. Like Bill Gates or that dude down in Mexico. Gates does give a huge amount of his fortune to charity every year, but don't tell me he doesn't drop at least that much or more on himself. Have you seen the guy's house, for Christ's sake? It makes Wayne Manor look like a hovel.
If the Bill Gateses and dudes down in Mexico of the world really wanted to, they, along with the CEOs and governing boards of major corporations, could at least put a great big dent in world poverty, if not annihilate it altogether. I'm not talking about heavy government taxes or redistribution of wealth — though I have no problem at all with taxing the shit out of people rich enough to afford it in order to pay for necessary social services, like, say, health care — I'm talking about charity.
Remember "charity," that thing Christians think they're displaying by helping their church build an even bigger church? Forget rich people — non-rich people can help, too. What I'm suggesting is, instead of using money to build a big fancy multimedia theater for your church, use it to help poor people. It probably even says something about that in the Bible, if that makes you feel better about it.
Here are some websites: the U.N.'s page devoted to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and the day's homepage, Oct17.org.