Wednesday, December 13, 2006

12 Days to Christmas

Christmas is often criticised for reasons that have nothing to do with it. At least, not essentially. It is blamed for fueling reckless consumerism, feeding the capitalist monster of greed and encouraging excess as if there was no tomorrow. And yet, the very first Christmas took place in the impoverished surroundings of a dirty stable where the Christ Child was born. A far cry from all that 'modern' Christmas stands for.

It is, somewhat, ironical that the poverty angle gets somewhat lost in all the manic Christmas celebrations even though Christ had some really harsh words to say to those who ignore the poor and go butt-varnishing the rich and mighty. But that should hardly surprise us because, even at the best of times, poverty is an uncomfortable topic and often brushed under the carpet in polite companies.

However, poverty does not disappear that easily and just like the Christ Child born in a manger could not be ignored forever, poverty has a way of creeping in to our consciousness in all kinds of ways. And statistics don't help much either. According to data compiled by Global issues, half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined, less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn't happen... this data is just the tip of the iceberg and a careful reading of the rest of the data will provide an uncomfortable picture of a serious gap between the very rich and the very poor.


What can be done about it?

I wish there were easy answers but there aren't any. The solution does not lie in changing the system and forcing some sort of artificial equality through a proletariat revolution. It did not work when it was attempted because the heart of the problem is human greed, and this greed cannot be tamed through legislation or revolution but it must be a voluntary effort. By the same token, the assumption that poverty can be reduced through 'trickle down economics' is, also, a naive supposition because if greed governs the income generation process, then, it is safe to assume that what would trickle down eventually to the bottom rung of the economic ladder will be ... nothing much.

The solution (if at all) lies in changed hearts of people who want to do something about it. And that's a real tough deal, if you ask me.

But since Christmas is round the corner, all I can do is be grateful to my Saviour for identifying Himself, during his time on Earth, with the world's disadvantaged instead of aligning Himself with the imperial powers of the day.

Perhaps it would be necessary to remember the squalid manger now and again, at least, while doing the Christmas shopping and planning the Christmas lunch. At the very least, it will bring perspective and that will be a significant step. Or so one hopes.

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