|Message || Culture of poverty
The culture of poverty concept is a social theory explaining the cycle of poverty. Based on the concept that the poor have a unique value system, the culture of poverty theory suggests the poor remain in poverty because of their adaptations to the burdens of poverty
Pakistan, a land with unlimited natural resources, nice geographical location in Asia and especially in south Asia with sea routes, mountains, deserts and plane area but living with poverty has become culture of this land. Being in state of poverty either Govt is Democratic or Ruled by Military, poor has no intentions, no visions but only one mission to earn one time meal for himself and for his family.
It is long history of Pakistan since independence and reshaping (after 1971 by Z.A.Bhutto) of country, every ruler measured poor and its poverty in ratios, percentages, in GDP, GNP or in foreign reserves. Never ever in history Poverty was measured in miseries of poor, disrespect of society towards large population of country that is in the state of poverty. Rich hate poor instead of hating poverty, Medical scientists Feel discomfort with patients instead of diseases, Police hate criminals instead of crime (Police definition of crime and criminals vary due to their status, if they are rich it is no more crime what ever they do, if they are poor every thing is crime).
It is open truth in society of Pakistan that more crime committed by literate and rich people then illiterate and poor. It is also culture of our society that uneducated class pay more respect to educated class, and in a response they get hateful and unneeded sentences from most literate people of society. I met with cobbler in Hyderabad; I asked him why you don’t send your child (little cobbler) to school. He replied;” if I let him to be educated, what people would call him Mochi Jo Put (son of cobbler), teacher would humiliate him due to my profession, you are watching I am doing work, no illegal practice or action against law or society but every body hate with my profession and with my family”.
Poverty not only affect the social system, castes systems, religious affiliation but it also affect the human relationship with its society. Poverty has its own culture, traditions and even religious interpretations. A student of B.A was selling charus at Jamshoro Phattak, (a place for students of Sindh university) with little bear and offer five time prayer, when I asked him that you are religious person why you commit crime which is against the teaching of Islam. He replied that; Namaz is religious obligation and Charus Bechina is my business, both are separate things. I spent this money on my studies and run my family affairs because I am head of household. Now here culture of poverty defines the meaning with its own interpretations and backgrounds. It is culture of Sindh (even in dacoits) that no harm to guest. It was culturally defined rules and laws that rarely exist in present Sindh. The reasons are very clear; hunger does not follow any law or ethical codes of conduct. Hunger never believe in morality or humanity, because now body would care in a situation where you know that next day is a day of death for you due to hunger, what would any body do. Absolutely he would commit crime or suicide because no third option is available.
Culture of poverty makes a path for hundreds of social problems and disparities like sex consciousness’ gender identity, violation of women rights, ethnicity, social class system on the basis of economy and status, age differences, disabilities, and religious conflicts. Due to poverty social and cultural conflicts emerges society and our mighty rulers call it Political issues, religious issues or only economic issue but never call it the issue of poor, issue of society, culture and issue of poor nation.
Another aspect of culture of poverty is rapid increase of Migration into urban areas is common as peasants search for better economic status. But most fail, also, families loosen, religion declines in importance, interpersonal relationships become increasingly impersonal etc. For some urban immigrants, poverty and social isolation can precipitate a sense of hopelessness that prevents them from seizing whatever political, economic and educational opportunities may exist. A universally acceptable definition of poverty, one that does not rest on standards that apply only to some cultures, is almost impossible to provide. One reason is because many people around the world conduct at least part of their lives without using money. Some grow their own food; others barter for goods and services. Thus, using dollars to categorize either individuals or whole nations as rich or poor, while helpful in some contexts, is inadequate in others, and in some cases may be ethnocentric as well. A retired teacher (80 years old) while sharing memoirs said that; when I get retirement from my village primary school, my kids forced me to shift from village to Hyderabad, at that time I was against of migration but due to family force I agreed upon their decision. Now I came to decision that I was right, I was more respectable in village then in cities because urban life based on material relationship not social in real sense. My children work in two shifts at different places; even they have no sufficient time for their kids and wives. They are not satisfied with their current economic position but in my times I was fully satisfied with my position, my salary was hundred times less then their salaries. My wife and me lived very happy life in village, every body respect me even my wife and she was known as Ustad Jee Gharwari (wife of Teacher).
President of world bank James D. Wolfensohn once said in interview about culture of poor, “Whether they live on the plains or in the valleys, whether they live in slums or isolated villages, whether they speak Hindi, Swahili, or Uzbek, people have one thing in common: They do not want charity. They want a chance. They do not want solutions imposed from without. They want the opportunity to build from within. They do not want my culture or yours. They want their own. They want a future enriched by the inheritance of their past."
Culture influences what is valued in a society; in particular, it shapes the 'ends' of development that are valuable to the poor; and culture influences how individuals, communities, informal and formal institutions respond to developmental changes, so knowledge of culture(s) is a means to effective poverty reduction.
It basic need of development process to understand the culture of poor and their understanding regarding development. Pakistan is agricultural country and most of the population living in rural areas in critical conditions, so that is a need of time to take practical step with the participation of poor people. Developmental goals and targets would be achieved if it is for the people and by the people same as we define democracy.
Note: Writer is an Anthropologist working as Assistant Programme Officer (For Monitoring Evaluation and Research) in Hyderabad based NGO SAFWCO.
For contact: Hameedullah APO-MER Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO) Opposite Bacon House School Qasimabad Hyderabad Sindh. 0300-3417056