a p u bl icat ion f rom Ou r A m e r ica n Ge n e r at ion
The Takeover Autumn 2010
Inside this issue:
Think hard before you vote on I- Initative 1053 and Initative 1107.
Post 9-11 Islamaphobia is alive and well.
The real definition of poverty.
August 26, 2011
Contents: The Open Veins of Washington’s Low-Income Communities
Francys Gaze p.4
A Shortcut for the Hungry or Corporate Interest at Work?
Michelle V.H. p.5
Quality Over Quantity Scott Davis p.6 The “Ground Zero Mosque” and Islamophobia in America
The Death Penalty: Still? For Real? Really?
Sam Withers p.10
A Redefinition Takeover: poverty
Alden Remington p.12
WHO WE ARE: Our American Generation is a youth powered think tank for social justice. OAG helps you(th) get serious and get organized about social justice issues you care about. We strive to engage youth in critical research and discussion about all social justice issues, in hopes to create a strong and diverse community of young Americans – a community that will not be reluctant to take on our nation’s most challenging problems. Today OAG facilitates research by youth in the Seattle metropolitan area, and accepts blog articles from youth anywhere! OAG incorporated as a non profit in the state of Washington in October of 2009. In March of 2011 OAG was recognized as a 501c(3) Non Profit organization. OAG was first founded in March of 2009 as a registered student organization at the University of Washington. The Takeover is a monthly ‘zine produced by members of Our American Generation. Hard copies are avaliable on University of Washington’s campus and at Seattle University, as well as various locations throughout Seattle. It is also published online at OAG.org. The Takeover is created in Adobe InDesign by Sarah Hiraki. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s up to you People just do not live forever and, by and large, older people are going to die sooner. American youth will have no choice but to take over the governing of our country. There is no autopilot for politics; our generation will have control. So, let us take the time now to discuss the problems this nation faces and how we might approach them differently. Let this be an invitation
for all young people out there to write for The Takeover. Bring your ideas, passions, fears and curiosities about the future of America to the table. Personal knowledge cannot create progress until it is shared with the community. We can build the world we want once we all know what we want. When writing for the Takeover you can address issues of all shapes and colors;
your challenge is to tie it into the context of justice (or injustice). Additionally, once a quarter OAG will publish a paper-copy of our most relevant and critical articles. What you have in your hands is the very first in the Takeover series. There is so much for us to discuss to create the just world we imagine; we can be the champions of this dream. Don’t be shy, speak your mind!
“The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation property in the generations which are to follow.” Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791)
The Our American Generation editorial board is composed of name, name, name, name, name. Signed articles and opinions represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or of Our American Generation.
August 26, 2011
The Open Veins of Washington’s
Low Income Communities Francys Gaze | Our American Generation
Washingtonians have a choice to make; yes or no on Initative 1053 and Initative 1107. TThis November, Washingtonians will vote on three tax reform initiatives. Anti-tax zealot Tim Eyman is sponsoring Initiative 1053, which would require a two-thirds majority of the state legislature to pass any tax increases. Initiative 1107, backed by the Beverage Association, would repeal sales taxes on soda-pop and candy. Initiative 1098 would create an income tax on the wealthiest 1.2% of Washingtonians, which would raise about $2.6 billion a year; $600 million would be returned to eliminate the Business & Occupation (B&O) tax on small businesses and reduce the state property tax, with the rest going towards education and health care in Washington State. What would these ballot measures mean for Washington’s future?
The mantra of the Seattle Times and Tim Eyman says the state government has spent like a drunken sailor, increasing tax burden and causing the current budget gaps. Actually, state government has been shrinking for awhile. State tax
revenue, as a share of the state economy, was 6.6% in 1994, and was 5.5% in 2008. In reality, the budget gaps are driven by a shrinking tax base as households spend less on taxed goods and more on untaxed services; no state relies as much on the sales tax as Washington State. In 2008 a conservative think-tank, the Tax Foundation, found Washington’s tax burden is below the national average. In 2008, the average American spent 9.7% of their income in state and local taxes; the average Washingtonian spent 8.9%. However, this average hides Washington State’s extremely unfair distribution of tax burden. So, Initiative 1053 wasn’t bankrolled onto the ballot because many Washingtonians fear tax increases. The largest funders of I-1053 are BP (yes, that BP), Tesoro, ConocoPhillips, Shell, the Farm Bureau (representing the state’s largest landowners and agribusinesses), timber companies, big banks, and the Beverage Association. I-1053 is bankrolled by several large corporations that fear being taxed, because their practices have infamously endangered our health, our environment, and our economy. Initiative 1107 is a naked attempt by the Beverage Association (funded by Coca-Cola and its fellow soda-pop peddlers) to buy legislation to repeal sales taxes on their cheap sugary drinks, products at the
“Washington State relies on the sales tax more than any other state. The poorer a family is, the more of their income they spend on basic purchases.”
root of the American obesity epidemic.
Oligopoly in the fine-print
Washington has the most regressive, unfair tax system in the Union. Washington State gets its revenue from a B&O tax that burdens small business and drives up prices, a property tax that burdens renters and home-owners, and a sales tax that burdens low-income families. As mentioned earlier, Washington State relies on the sales tax more than any other state. The poorer a family is, the more of their income they spend on basic purchases. Altogether, this system puts the heaviest tax burden on low-income and middle-class families, while erecting barriers to entrepreneurship and home ownership. Of course this breeds resentment of government, or resentment of scapegoats such as immigrants, especially in rural low-income/ high-unemployment areas that see the worst ratio of government-benefits-totax-burden. Families in the lowest 20% of incomes pay over 17% of it to state and local taxes. Only 2.6% of income from the wealthiest 1% goes to state and local taxes. Many states with sales taxes have broad exemptions for goods regularly purchased by families, such as groceries, clothes, hygiene products, and so on; Washington only exempts groceries. The B&O tax is unique to Washington State. Most states have transitioned to the corporate income tax. The state laws and bureaucracy for enforcing the B&O tax rival the Internal Revenue Service for Byzantine nature, riddled with differential rates and special treatment for favored corporations. The B&O tax is a textbook example of a market entry
“The statewide poverty rate has been stuck around 11% since 1989, and shot up to 12.3% in 2009.” barrier, as small businesses pay a higher tax rate overall than the corporate oligopoly. Businesses will include part of the cost of taxes in their prices, and since the B&O tax is applied to sales at every step of the production process, there is a cumulative effect on prices. Like a value added tax, or a sales tax on steroids, a B&O tax of less than 2% can drive up consumer prices 5% to 10%, which also gives out-of-state suppliers a big advantage over in-state suppliers. Altogether, Washington’s approach to business taxes smothers entrepreneurship in the cradle.
Sometimes, I think of my five younger siblings, and wonder: will I be the first and last family member to get a bachelor’s degree? The statewide poverty rate has been stuck around 11% since 1989, and shot up to 12.3% in 2009. Washington’s high school dropout rate is 20%. Families making under $37,000 a year ultimately pay for 24% of the state budget, yet only one
in ten of their children will graduate from college. Inter-generational poverty is vividly illustrated by racial poverty rates: in Washington, the white poverty rate is currently 10%; for African-American, Latino, and Native populations, the rate is 24 to 25%. Then there are county disparities: in 2009, unemployment in urban King County was 8%; in rural, low-income Whakiakum County, it was 14%. Why are so many Washington families caught in a poverty trap? To be blunt: Washington State is slashing education and services, while overtaxing low-income communities. State and local taxes pay for the spending that keeps the economy functioning, such as police, education, public health, roads and public infrastructure. The super-wealthy reap enormous positive externalities from economic performance. Low-income families not only get the heaviest tax burden, they get the least return for it. They are cut out from the dividends of economic performance. The government services they pay for
“Low-income families not only get the heaviest tax burden, they get the least return for it. They are cut out from the dividends of economic performance.”
are low-quality or absent, from potholes to underfunded schools to underfunded public transit (especially in rural areas) to high-crime neighborhoods to police brutality. Washington State’s tax system is a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest, spread over every cash register transaction. The poor are crucified on a cross of nickel. Welfare spending is a mere band-aid, as resources f low from the open veins of low-income communities. The state tax system is a system of corporate welfare. Oligopolistic corporations and the super-wealthy position themselves as noble job creators championing tax relief, while they push a job-killing, anti-services, corporate welfare agenda. They’ve funded Tim Eyman, the Beverage Association, the Initiative 1098 opposition campaign, and most politicians in this state. Washington State has never had campaign finance laws. For decades, public spiritedness has been eroded by a corporate duopoly in our politics, bringing us to the present economic disaster. The disaster has been used to justify slashing education, health care for lowincome families, and all other services. The root of the disaster lies in the undue inf luence of the wealthy few whom conf late their needs and desires with the best interest of the planet. Money in politics has fed the internal rot of democracy. This is a critical time to fight for education, a fair tax system, and true democracy; for a better future for Washington and our world.
Francys can be reached at oag. org
August 26, 2011
A Shortcut for the Hungry, or Corporate Interest at Work?
Michelle Ventucci Harvey | Our American Generation GMOs can produce more food faster, but when it comes to quality versus quantity, more isn’t always better, even when it comes to hunger. Why are we so obsessed with shortcuts? Instead of eating right and exercising, we want to eat sugary foods and take diet suppressant pills. Instead of acknowledging that hard work is effective, we expect things to be handed to us. Instead of waiting 10 minutes for a bus, we drive our gas guzzler down the highway. Ok – I’m generalizing a bit, but you get the idea. So let’s talk about GMOs. Without getting into an actual discussion about whether or not biotechnology produces healthy plants, I think it is important to give some perspective. Corporations like Monsanto are constantly stating that biotech is the only way to feed the world, claiming that GMOs will yield more food in less space (check out Monsanto’s website – sounds good, right). The problem is not that we don’t have enough food – in fact, we currently produce 1.5 times more food than is needed on this planet, and people are still hungry. So the problem is not producing more food, but rather addressing the sociopolitical factors that keep food from the people that need it.
The Agriculture Assessment Report was put together by 55 scientists and other collaborators, to the dismay of the World Bank, the FAO and other large institutions. The goal was to figure out the best way to feed the world. The conclusion was that organic, biointensive agriculture was much more effective than GMOs and other forms of biotech. The report was never publicized due to pressure from Monsanto and other corporations. This is a blurb from FoodFirst, a company that uses food and development policy to address issues of injustice that cause hunger:
Biotech proponents argue that genetic engineering can provide a solution to world hunger. GMO crops, they say, not only produce higher yields and therefore feed more people, but can also be modified to include vitamins and nutrients that are severely lacking in the diets of poor people. There are problems with these arguments. First, there is no evidence that hunger today is caused by insufficient food, nor that it would be
alleviated by producing more. Careful research shows that is the inability of the poor to access abundant food supplies that is the leading cause of hunger. Furthermore, were more food needed, there are better ways to produce it than through genetic engineering, as has been shown by the work of Food First, while the risks associated with GMOs may well overshadow any potential benefits. Biotech proponents argue that genetic engineering can provide a solution to world hunger. GMO crops, they say, not only produce higher yields and therefore feed more people, but can also be modified to include vitamins and nutrients that are severely lacking in the diets of poor people. There are problems with these arguments. First, there is no evidence that hunger today is caused by insufficient food, nor that it would be alleviated by producing more. Careful research shows that is the inability of the poor to access abundant food supplies that is the leading cause of hunger. Furthermore, were more food needed, there are better ways to produce it than through genetic engineering, as has been shown by the work of Food First, while the risks associ-
“The development of GMO crops is misplaced energy. We should be spending more time, energy, money and research on practical, real ways to increase access to affordable, healthy foods.”
ated with GMOs may well overshadow any potential benefits. The development of GMO crops is misplaced energy. We should be spending more time, energy, money and research on practical, real ways to increase access to affordable, healthy foods. Let’s look at political subsidies, geographic location of marginalized populations, cost of “organic” food, etc. before we start trying to “maximize crop yield” using GMOs. There are so many ways we could go about solving our food crises, why should be pick a way that could potentially contribute to ecological degradation and human illness? No thank you.
Michelle can be reached at oag.org
Quantity Scott Davis | Our American Generation Quality over quantity is a concept for measuring national economies in a way that incorporates economic justice and emphasizes what I would call real efficiency. At this point, it is only a daydream, but I believe if I can tease out some thoughts and critiques from others this could develop into a legitimate tool. Many critiques of GDP, Gross Domestic Product, as a measure of economies have been put forward, my favorite by Robert Kennedy (although he refers specifically to GNP, Gross National Product, the critique is applicable to both): Ideally, “Quality over Quantity” would differentiate those nations that maximize the dollar value of goods and services they consume and produce without considering equity or moderation, from
“This methodology embodies ideas of no-waste, sustainability, equity, etc. yet recognizes that there will always be a need for some nonessentials to get economies strong.” those nations that are prioritizing equal access to essential* goods and services, such a food, water, shelter, and basic healthcare. Allow me to explain: Quality – Quality in this methodology refers to essential goods and services such as access to sustenance, shelter, and basic health services. Quality would always be relative measurements from 0-1. For example, if 10% of a country’s citizens are malnourished, they would score .9 for quality of food economy. Scores from multiple essential economies could be averaged to find the overall score of a nation. Quantity – On the contrary, quantity refers to the number of nonessential goods and services that exist in an economy. When I think of these nonessentials, yachts, pet clothing and plastic surgery come to mind. q would be = the total cost of all nonessentials in an economy.
Implications – This method of judging economies would turn our current system on its head. The effect of the nature of fractions is the most interesting to me. The goal would be to have the highest number coming out of the Quality/quantity equation. The best possible economy would provide all essential goods and services to 100% of its citizens, and provide the minimum number of nonessential goods and services in order to keep an economy rolling. To take real life examples, Sweden may score better than the US, but a Nepalese community may score better than Sweden. The poorest nations that can’t feed their citizens will still have low scores. *To allow for cultural relativism, countries could define essential goods services independently. More commodity intensive definitions would allow for greater levels of production and consumption, but again the
crucial factor is the % of population with access to these goods and services. To me, the score defines the real efficiency of a nation: getting the most quality with the least quantity. This methodology embodies ideas of no-waste, sustainability, equity, etc. yet recognizes that there will always be a need for some nonessentials to get economies strong. After all, q cannot equal 0. I want to make some qualifications about this concept, but there are honestly too many. I am interested in constructive criticism, because this method is still maturing. I know there are a lot of young people out there who believe they have a grasp over economics. What would be the positive and negative outcomes of measuring national economies in this fashion?
Scott can be reached at oag.org
August 26, 2011
The “Ground Zero Mosque” and Islamophobia in America
Jane Kim | Our American Generation Americans should use discussion and relevence of terrorism issues to educate themselves on issues of multiculturalism, not to condemn. After the fierce debates that raged across the country regarding the “Ground Zero mosque,” Muslims, Christians, conservatives and liberals alike were deeply divided about the plans for community center two blocks away from Ground Zero. While some absolutely believed in freedom of religion and the necessity of understanding radical Islamist terrorism as a means for political power, others were intensely wary of Islam’s message. A few weeks ago, a 21 year old student stabbed a Bangladesh cab driver after learning he was Muslim. By stating greetings in Arabic and asking friendly questions, Michael Enright earned Ahmed Sharif ’s trust before slashing him with a leatherman in the throat, lip, and arm. This horrifying event changed one thing for me: as an Arabic learner, I usually enjoyed talking with
cab drivers about whether they were from an Arabicspeaking country, or whether they were Muslim. Now, I feel that asking such questions could make taxi drivers suspicious or nervous, and that is an uncomfortable feeling. Thanks to this one individual who I have no connection with, other than the fact that I happen to be a 21 year old college student, I have to be more careful about innocent actions, like asking a cab driver where he is from. Just the way we should not attempt to categorize or label all Muslims as terrorists, we should not assume that all 21 year old students hate freedom of religion. The “sensitivity issue” about how this Muslim community center is in a “sensitive” location assumes that terrorism is Islam. Not only is Islam the second largest religion in the world, its adherents are diverse- just like Christianity, there are people who call
themselves religious just because of their family, or there are believers who are very devout, and there are people who twist the meanings of the Scripture to further their personal agenda. Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons all consider themselves to be Christians, but are extremely divergent in their beliefs. In the same way, it is
must now censor themselves: in our world of soundbites, how would you sound if you said you believe in jihad to a random non-Muslim? The theme of violence fueled by religious ideology is not unique to Islam. Sure, Islam can be a easy excuse for some people to justify hurting Americans... just the way that Christianity was an easy excuse to kill Indi-
“A few weeks ago, a 21 year old student stabbed a Bangladesh cab driver after learning he was Muslim.” important to realize the complexity of Islam as a religion with billions of adherents. Radicals have turned jihad, meaning “striving, inner struggle,” which usually emphasizes the importance of the community’s struggle for consensus, into a justification for terrorism. This has been extremely detrimental for many peaceful Muslims who see jihad as an important aspect of their faith, but
ans, enslave Africans, and “civilize” Hawaiians. Christianity has been used to put women in their place, to destroy people’s lives in witch hunts, and to discriminate against gays. Ultimately, religion boils down to believing in a core truth, or fulfilling a set of rules in order to be “saved;” such as believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins, or believing that there is only one God
“The theme of violence fueled by religious ideology is not unique to Islam. ure, Islam can be a easy excuse for some people to justify hurting Americans... just the way that Christianity was an easy excuse to kill Indians, enslave Africans, and “civilize” Hawaiians.”
“The irony is that the more Americans lump Muslims into a dark, ominous blob, the more isolated Muslim Americans will feel from the rest of American society.” and that Muhammad is his Prophet. Therefore, it makes no sense to believe that Islam is an “inherently sexist or violent religion,” any more than Catholicism or Protestantism. The irony is that the more
recruitment, or to become sympathetic to terrorism. Critics often cite Islam’s past of burning down synagogues and churches, as well as the lack of synagogues and churches in Saudi Arabia.
with Christianity under Muslim rule. In addition, Muslims have not suddenly popped up in the United States in the past ten years, there have been Muslims in the U.S. since the 1700s. Many Africans who
“The last thing we want is to give Muslims proof that America is a hypocritical country where people of different beliefs are unwelcome, hence making it easier for them to be targeted by radicals for recruitment...” Americans lump Muslims into a dark, ominous blob, the more isolated Muslim Americans will feel from the rest of American society. Not only are there an estimated five million Muslims in a America, they come from every strata of our society- blacks, whites, Indonesians, Indians, Somalis, Egyptians, Mexicans... The last thing we want is to give Muslims proof that America is a hypocritical country where people of different beliefs are unwelcome, hence making it easier for them to be targeted by radicals for
While it is true that religions have often fought each other, Muslim rule in Spain during the eight hundred years of the Umayyad dynasty was characterized by remarkable religious tolerance and peace. It was when Isabella and Ferdinand captured Cordoba in 1492 that they expelled all the Jews and Muslims, religions that had coexisted in peace
came to the U.S. as slaves were Muslims, and the first country to acknowledge the United
States as a sovereign state in 1777 was Morocco, a Muslim state. Americans must consider the surge of terrorism a response to growing intolerance and bigotry towards Muslims, not something inherent to Islam. Obviously, these forces can be mutually reinforcing, which is why it is each and every American’s responsibility to extinguish the fires of hatred, not stoke them.
Jane can be reached at oag.org
10 The Death Penalty:
August 26, 2011
Still? Really? For Real?!
Samuel Withers | Our American Generation The death penalty is an archaeic and historically prejudiced practice which allows racial biases to stay alive in the American legal system. This year I’ve been doing a great deal of pondering over this curious criminal justice system of ours. I was amazed when I found out that the US of A is one of the last democratic nations in the world that continues to impose the death penalty. Over two thirds of the world’s nations, 139, have abolished capital punishment either formally or in practice. This discovery prompted a whole bunch of questions. Why is there so much support for the death penalty in the US, the self-proclaimed champion of human rights and civilizing force of the world? How could so much of the globe scrap capital punishment while the US was left behind along with a rather disreputable lot including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Pakistan (five nations that make up about 90% of all state executions)? While researching popular support for the death penalty I found that many Americans do not favor the death penalty for specific policy reasons but instead favor capital punishment because of values it transmits and
the ritual function it serves. Hmm…ok. So, what ritual function might that be? Perhaps a little historical context would help clear up the subject. An examination of nineteenth and early twentieth century lynchings of African Americans as well as the imposition of the death penalty following the Reconstruction of the American South both illuminate the way in which executions serve as spectacles that reinforce the existing racial hierarchy in society. They simultaneously produce solidarity among European Americans (you know, white peeps) while terrorizing the African American community.
Following the end of the Civil War, many Southern European Americans were thrown into a state of crisis. After the emancipation of slaves, European Americans feared a loss of status in society. Without the institution of slavery, they lacked the means of enforcing the dominant position in society to which they had become so accustomed.
Lynching, typically occurring in former slave states, quickly became a new means of enforcing the racial hierarchy. While previously lynching victims were commonly European American, the Klu Klux Klan and many others adopted the brutal tactic in order to repress the newly emancipated African Americans. After the Civil War, those lynched were almost entirely young African American
an European American man. Crowds numbering in the thousands often gathered to view the torture and execution that lynchings entailed. After the killing, mutilated body parts were often put on display. For much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these lynchings had the approval of political leaders, especially in the South, and a large amount of public support.
“US of A is one of the last democratic nations in the world that continues to impose the death penalty. Over two thirds of the world’s nations, 139, have abolished capital punishment either formally or in practice.” males who had somehow challenged the existing racial hierarchy. The supposed victims were almost always European Americans. However, it should be noted that many of the alleged crimes were non-lethal and commonly unsubstantiated. In one case, an African American was lynched for failing to take off his hat in the presence of
It was commonly thought to be a democratic expression of the populist will and was treated as a legitimate alternative to the legal system. A change came with the end of Reconstruction. As Northern troops left, the practice of lynching was institutionalized by the state in the form of capital punishment. The majority of those
“Crowds numbering in the thousands often gathered to view the torture and execution that lynchings entailed.“
“It should also be noted that nine out of the top ten executing states are Southern former slave states, with Virginia and Texas alone accounting for 46% percent of our nation’s total executions.” executed by the state in any given year were of African descent. The juries in capital cases were often comprised of individuals who had formerly been engaged in lynchings. The cases themselves were quite rushed. One African American charged with raping a European American woman was tried, convicted, and executed in a little over one hour. African Americans’ body parts were still sometimes put on public display after execution. So, it should come to no surprise that Southerners began to refer to the imposition of the death penalty as “legal lynching.” Capital punishment quickly became the new mode of enforcing the racial hierarchy by strengthening European American solidarity while terrorizing African Americans.
Today, as in the past, the majority of those executed are African American males. It should also be noted that nine out of the top ten executing states are Southern former slave states, with Virginia and Texas alone accounting for 46% percent of our nation’s total executions. The June 22, 2000 execution of African American Shaka Sankofa, formerly Gary Graham, serves to illustrate that the ritual function remains attached to the imposition of the death penalty. Sankofa, who maintained his innocent while incarcerated, was charged, convicted, and executed for the murder of European American Bobby Grant Lambert. At the time of the crime, Sankofa was still a juvenile. The US Supreme Court rejected his plea to halt
the execution with a vote of 5-4. Outside the Huntsville execution unit large crowds assembled. Among the many supporters of Sankofa’s execution were KKK members displaying Confederate flags and racist signs. The execution of an African American man who asserted his innocence, as well as the hostile group of overtly racist European Americans, implicate the terrorization of African Americans as key to the ritual function of capital punishment. That’s a whole bunch of evidence that state executions continue to reinforce the existing racial hierarchy. In his last statement, Sankofa testified to the injustice of his execution,
Thoughts on the Future
Americans should take a moment to reexamine their support for capital punishment. Why is it that race proves to be the most significant predictor for support of capital punishment (the vast majority of European Americans support the death penalty and African Americans are much more likely to oppose it)? We need to learn to check our prejudice and concerns surrounding social status. We cannot continue to let them shape American criminal justice. When it comes down to it, Americans are still racist. Together, as a country, we seriously need to work that ish out.
Samuel can be reached at oag.org.
Moving forward, European
“So, it should come to no surprise that Southerners began to refer to the imposition of the death penalty as ‘legal lynching.’ Capital punishment quickly became the new mode of enforcing the racial hierarchy by strengthening European American solidarity while terrorizing African Americans.”
August 26, 2011
A Re-definition Takeover:
Alden Remington | Our American Generation
According to the dictionary… pov·er·ty [pov-er-tee] –noun the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence. So… in·di·gence [in-di-juhns] –noun seriously impoverished condition; poverty. And according to the etymological dictionary… indigence late 14c., from O.Fr. indigence (13c.), from L. indigentia, from indigentem (nom. indigens), prp. of indigere “to need,” from indu “in, within” + egere “be in need, want.” Kind of like… indigenous 1640s, from L.L. indigenus “born in a country, native,” from L. indigena “a native,” lit. “in-born person,” from Old L. indu “in, within” (earlier endo) + gen-, root of gignere (perf. genui) “beget,” from PIE *gen- “produce.” So basically… Indu- = “in, within” + egere = “be in need, want” à in need (as in in/ within a state of need/want) Indu- = “in, within” + gen- = “begot, produced” à begot within (as
in produced in that place, native) If you’re not following, don’t worry. I’ll explain later. According to Justin Boland of Brainsturbator, “Poor people aren’t poor because they don’t have
“In other words, we must recognize that–historically speaking–we’ve defined poverty as a repressive lack of monetary opportunities.” money. They’re poor because they need to get money in order to live a decent life. They’re poor because they’re surrounded by too many people and not enough resources. They’re poor because they’re stuck in areas that nobody wants to be, and they don’t have any alternatives. And 10 times out of 10, they’re poor because someone else has profited off their problems.” This
comes from an article entitled “Saving the World Starts in Africa.” To me, this is both a realistic view and a source of optimistic inspiration. This shifts poverty solutions to resource distribution and community wellbeing rather than monetary distribution and economic stability. I see it as a matter of choosing either a solution set to problem A (availability of resources for human survival and f lourish) and then a solution set to problem B (opportunity for economic stability and growth) or a solution set to problems A and B simultaneously. So, with positive vibrations laying the mental pathway, we must put into question the ideas we have about individual monetary value and its ties to poverty. In other words, we must recognize that–historically speaking–we’ve defined poverty as a repressive lack of monetary opportunities. Essentially, it has ceased to have relevance to real survival because those who elect (if they are fortunate enough to be the one making that decision) to be selfsufficient–taking money out of survival’s definition–are no longer on a scale by which poverty is measured. From ever-since, poverty has been a tool utilized by colonizers
“From ever-since, poverty has been a tool utilized by colonizers to profit off of indigenous peoples. It’s the bottom end of a scale that was created for those at the top.”
“It was simply a matter of usurping those resources from their natural place and moving them to a place where society upheld that the possession of said resources meant individual luxury through trade.” to profit off of indigenous peoples. It’s the bottom end of a scale that was created for those at the top. So, in order to take the resources off the table, money was placed upon it. Then, those who controlled the cash controlled the resources. According to the late Washington native and founder of the Bear Tribe, Sun Bear, “Their original intention for coming to the New World was for everybody to get wealthy by stealing from the Indians, and then go back to the old country and become gentlemen there.”* Resources in the New World were equal to dollars in the old world. It was simply a matter of usurping those resources from their natural place and moving them to a place where society upheld that the possession of said resources meant individual luxury through trade. However, those human beings working to extract the materials often had related health issues (physical and mental), they directly contributed to
the exploitation of local community and our planet as a whole, and they quickly found themselves at the mercy of those who “owned” the resources and paid (sometimes) the wages. Now, fast-forward to the present. Have we really moved on? Have we stopped exploiting the locals (whether indigenous or not)? I think Justin Boland gives a simple but effective example to demonstrate my emphatic “NO.” He says, “I disagree with most Western economists on the issue of jobs. A “job” only adds value if it contributes to the culture and makes the employee into a better person. If someone is working at a Taco Bell, I think that works against the entire culture. It makes people hate life and contributes to world problems, and it doesn’t pay you much either.” Sound familiar? With this in mind, I’d like to draw your attention back to the words, definitions, and etymologies at the beginning of the post. I propose a
shift in thinking; a redefinition takeover if you like. I propose the use of indigence–heretofore poverty–to describe this repressive lack of monetary opportunities, as it requires (through etymology or simply looking at the similarities in spelling, structure, and sound) that we sensibly and thoroughly examine the past in the shaping of the future. In this vein, we will be making the distinction between those fighting for the basics because of the realities of life circumstance (as in the specific time and space, post-hurricane survival for example) and those fighting for the basics in an arena constructed by other, profiting human beings (as in the slums and ghettos of any major city). I say we leave indigence to the violence and mistakes of the past, and redevelop our definition of and relationship with poverty. Alden can be reached at oag.org.
“I propose the use of indigence–heretofore poverty–to describe this repressive lack of monetary opportunities, as it requires (through etymology or simply looking at the similarities in spelling, structure, and sound) that we sensibly and thoroughly examine the past in the shaping of the future.”
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Inside this issue:
Hunger isnâ€™t caused by a lack of food afterall.
Quality & Quantity: a new system previously misunderstood.
The racist history behind capital punishment.