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Poverty Versus Violence

The little girl grew up in the harsh high plateau of Bolivia, within mountains and cold winds year round. Her mom died when she was eight, but neither before or after her death did she receive a tender, caressing touch of a loving familiar hand. She is now over thirty and the mother of a five year old boy, who she treats exactly the same way she was always treated.

When the boy was one year old, he had already been in the emergency room many times, especially for colds and diarrhea, and many times for falling, cutting himself, and swallowing objects. The bare truth is that the boy lived on the floor, and she didn´t care to teach him an hour to sleep, an hour to eat, or an hour to play. So, he ended up eating, sleeping and playing on the floor.

When he was two he was forced to shower himself. He had to learn the tough way that the water could be too hot or too cold, and his mom would leave him home alone… with the cell phone next to him, so that he could call her when awake. At three he was responsible for his own food. He learned how to make his own milk, and was forced to ask for food to the neighbors because there was none at home.

The boy is brilliant, though. In spite of the way his mother treats him (his father has no say in this, as she beats the man if he complains), he realizes that he must be educated. When someone offers to teach him something, he goes for it and learns quickly. He goes to pre-k and he is very clever. He is even learning how to read before everyone else.

This mother doesn´t realize she is being violent. All the spanking, all the shouting, don´t impress her as being violent. Why? One wonders. But if you think about it, even though she is having people around who tell her what to do and how to do it, the harsh truth is that she won´t learn fast. It will take her time to realize that she really needs to review her ways. This is because she has known no caring ways throughout her life. She has no model to follow. She does not think this behavior is violent. She thinks it is the right way to go with her son and her husband. She believes that if her husband, who only studied high school, cannot earn enough then she has the right to put him down.

The boy is now old enough to understand many things and he makes his father buy him Barney videos. His grandmother sends some books, and his great grandmother usually gives him food, that he eats quickly all by himself. His grandma told him he should not be on the floors sleeping and playing, so now he tries to stand up and run around without falling asleep on the floor.

What is wrong with this mother? I asked myself many times. Only this time I got to answer my question: She is ill. Ill with the illness of poverty, and violent with the violence of poverty. She has been struck by the reality of a life that is very, very hard to live. I don´t blame her for being violent, and I know she will learn little by little. Maybe her son will end up teaching her.

She acts instinctively, and even though she now holds a university degree, her attitude towards how to raise a kid, or how to lead her life, has not changed yet. This shows that formal education plays a part in making us more capable, but there must be another kind of education that we are not addressing, which is responsible for changing our set of behavioral patterns.

The definitions of poverty in many books may include the lack of money, the lack of other resources and many other components, but they don´t include violence. This is because we tend to see violence as a result of poverty, but not as a component of poverty in itself. The case I just presented makes it clear that we need to change this way of thinking. We need to include violence as a component of poverty and we must include this wider view in non formal education.

What I can see as the most accessible way to non formal education for young women is television. Remember that humans are copycats. We tend to copy what we see in our environment and TV, radio, and all media are in our environment. Soap operas and music that talk about how cool it is to rape, to shout, to take revenge, and to be violent in general, are teaching our girls and boys that being violent is alright.

These three paths are very important if we will end violence in the world: 1. To change the definition of poverty to include violence as one of its components, and not as a result of it; 2. To change our vision of the popular media, by not accepting songs and shows that make violent attitudes look like acceptable; and 3. To accept that poverty is a psychological illness that needs to be treated by professional behavior consultants not only individually, but locally and globally.

Poverty and its violence make people ill, and this illness needs to be addressed by the whole world, as it creates monsters that don´t caress their children. These children later on are incapable of telling right from wrong, and don´t realize they are being violent. Let us not, in the name of modernity, become evil.

Comments

Carri Pence's picture

As you stated it is hard to

As you stated it is hard to believe that people with education can be so ignorant of their violent ways. What I fear is that she won't learn and her son will become abusive as well. Thus, the cycle needs to be stopped with her. She needs to realize that she is doing a horrible thing and that no one can stop her by herself. She could be ill by both poverty and by her own mental illness. My grandma was very abusive to her children and then later we found out she was bi polar.

Love and respect,
Carri Pence

jap21's picture

Hi Carri

God bless the people who help women like her, because she is in so much need of it. As you said, maybe she has some other illness, but her family already tried to take her to the psychologist and she laughed and said that she is almost perfect and does not need that kind of help.

When I learned this, I knew that a shrink was urgent for her, but only after two years she began cry and look for help within her friends. It is not the best, but it is a beginning.

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

brianna.warren's picture

Beyond circumstances

Poverty is indeed much more than a set of circumstances. It can be a viral way of thinking, acting and reacting, and it can be passed through the generations if we do not reach out to our sisters and brothers who need to know there is another way to live. Media is a powerful tool, and we should be countering the ills of popular media with positive, informative programming. There are many components that tie into the behaviors of those who live in extreme poverty, and I am happy to see you are recognizing and endeavoring to understand and address those components.

All the best,

Brianna

jap21's picture

Hi Brianna

Thanks for the comment. I wish we would all use viral marketing campaigns not only to make profit, but to "sell" better ways of living to the poor. I have experienced how change can be achieved through viral social marketing campaigns. The problem is: not enough money is allocated to this kind of endeavors.

This is why one of my objectives through the use of the internet is to begin spreading the word about new meanings of old words, which include issues usually looked away from by most scientists (especially social scientists).

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Starland's picture

Gracias Amiga

I think your story brings up some very good points that I, too, have often thought about. I think in poverty situations it is at least perceived as a greater problem and indeed, perhaps, it is. Poverty is a very frustrating lifestyle that does often lead to violence and a strong sense of helplessness and unworthiness. I see it in this little Texas town everyday.

Still there is the story of an impoverished father who had two sons and the father beat and abused them horribly each and every day. Then when the boys were grown and the father dead, a reporter went first to one son. This son had become successful not only in business but also in his personal, happy relationship with his wife and children. He was well-respected in his community. The reporter asked, "How can you be so happy and successful when you had a father that severely abused you all the time?" The son responded, "Precisely for that reason. Why would I want to be like him? He was a miserable and unhappy person. I never wanted to be like that."
Then the reporter went to the other son who was in prison. She asked, "How is it you are incarcerated for so much violence?" This son replied, "My father beat me every day. That was all I ever knew. How could I not be like him?"

Perhaps violence is a choice when we want to discover the options. What do you think?

Love
K-lee 3709

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

jap21's picture

Hi K-lee

You are right. It is all about options. We need to help people realize that options are there and that they matter. Viral marketing can help us do that: raise awareness about poverty being violence, but more importantly, about how violence IS poverty.

We can influence the choice, but this must be done one by one, relentlessly. Because it is easy to make the wrong choice. Because it is easy to get caught in the path that seems to be the easiest, that requires less work, as in the case of the second brother, and have an excuse to do it, which will make you look like a victim of life, when in reality you are the victim of your own choice.

I wish more money in the world was allocated to what matters instead of going down the drain in programs that fill small towns with corrupted officers. But this is just one person´s thinking: me.

Thanks for being part of this awesome community and adding to this conversation. Your insight always makes me have hope that in the future more people will listen, more people will make the right choice.

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Starland's picture

I agree

Hi Jackie

I, too, wish there was more money in the world to allocate to what matters. Over here we have anger management and parenting classes that help but first the person has to be arrested to get to them. Not always but most of the time. Is there anything like this where you are?

Love

K-lee

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

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