as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Monday, January 18, 2016
By TOM HENRY
Frederick Douglass once said, “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Though Douglass never visited Blytheville, his quote certainly proves that he knew the place!
Poverty is not just a monetary matter, it is foremost a matter of the mind. That is why simply throwing money at poverty cannot solve the problem. The problem, as tragic and serious as it is (and it really is), is very complex and takes time to solve.
A Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs with the White House Domestic Policy Council and a Federal Co-Chair for the Delta Regional Authority visited our fair city Wednesday morning to discuss the challenges and possible solutions to the problem of poverty in Mississippi County. Representatives from city and county governments, ANC, numerous federal aid programs and non-profit organizations were present at the meeting.
I applaud every effort they are all making and this column should not be interpreted as an indictment against any of them.
But in my humble opinion, they are missing the whole point.
Poverty IS far more than a condition of financial lack and it is far more than economic in nature. Poverty is a lifestyle of small thinking. Some live in poverty for a short while because emergencies or tragedies have required them to “start over.”
Those unfortunate ones are not suffering from a poverty mindset; they are suffering from tragedy and will eventually work their way back out of poverty. Others are in poverty, through no fault of their own, because their starting position in life was that of being “dirt poor,” but that too is not a permanent excuse.
Some fortunate people have money left over at the end of the month, but most of us have far more month than money.
Not all of us, however, are living lives of poverty. We are just money challenged.
The mindset of Poverty is narrow, small minded, fearful generational thinking that binds one more surely than do all the handcuffs of Mississippi County. Poverty often is the opposite of excellence. Poverty is the result of those that do “just enough to get by.”
It is a consequence of mediocrity, whether because of laziness on the part of an employee/student or because of bad management due to the lack of a vision, faith or ambition to be “the best that we can be.” Poverty is a lack of the good kind of pride, education and effort. Trust me, “that’s just how it is in Blytheville” is not a valid excuse — it’s a chain!
Poverty is taught everyday in Blytheville. Parents that fail to teach their children a good work ethic or that there are consequences to substandard results, new employees that allow themselves to be corrupted by substandard old employee shortcuts and teachers that reward substandard work and missed deadlines in order to pass students along or to protect their self esteem, all teach the poverty mindset.
Poverty can be a scam. Lazy, scheming people that seek to live off the government, though perfectly able bodied and “poverty pimps” that exploit those in poverty with payoffs in exchange for votes, support or influence are all operating a scam that perpetuates the poverty mindset.
Poverty can be caused by life-choking fear. There are people that believe they are not worthy of anything better than a life of poverty. Their fear of failure, lack of family support or their need for status quo keeps them from going back to school, taking calculated risks such starting a business or maximizing their gifts and talents…all poverty mindsets.
Poverty can be an excuse. All too often people just blame their condition on others or fate by failing to take ownership of who they have become and where they are in life. Everyone’s today is a result of his or her decisions made yesterday. Therefore, if anyone desires a better tomorrow, they have to make a different decision today.
Short of winning the $1.5 billion Powerball lottery, poverty is always very difficult to come out of, but it CAN be defeated and it is worth it! But you’ve got to want it bad.
A decision must be made, in fact a series of decisions are made every day of your life, to not live in a small place…or to simply “do as little as possible”…or to be so comfortable with familiarity that kills hope and denies change. Poverty is about excellence in everything you do and it is about attitude. You can do it! You can be and do anything you wan to in life if you are willing to work hard enough for it…. yes YOU too!