In the book “Walking With The Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development,” Bryant L. Myers points out the following:
Dr Ravi I. Jayakaran’s framework for poverty as limitation echoes John Friedmann’s observation that, “while we do not know what a “flourishing human life” is, we “can know what inhibits it: hunger, poor health, poor education, a life of backbreaking labor, a constant fear of dispossession and chaotic social relations” (Friedmann 1992, 12). The response is to help the poor lose their limitations, a phrase that Ted Ward often used as he consulted with development agencies in the 1980s. This echoes Amartya Sen’s proposal that the goal of development is to increase human freedom as both the means and the end of development. Jayakaran goes on to point out that behind each of these “bundles of limitations” lies powerful stakeholders, people whose interests are served by the limitations and who have a stake in sustaining the illusion that such limitations can never be changed. We discover these limitations when we ask the critical diagnostic question: Who is doing what to whom?
I’ve added some important links to the people and the works mentioned above. I’d encourage you to visit them at your convenience.
Myers goes on to point out that Jayakaran says:
The micro-expression of these stakeholders is usually local and obvious: moneylenders, local traders and business people, police, government officials, and priests or shamans. The macro-expressions are often harder to name because they are located elsewhere, usually close to where decisions affecting the poor are made. In addition to being harder to find and identify, the higher-level stakeholders usually control the micro-level ones.
“Jayakaran adds to our understanding of poverty in two important ways. First, he locates the causes of poverty in people, not in concepts or abstractions. This is important and is frequently forgotten. It is easy to blame greed, systems, the market, corruption, and culture, but these are abstractions and cannot be directly changed. People—the poor and the non-poor—have to change. Second, Jayakaran alerts us to the fact that these stakeholders, the sources of oppression, are often themselves operating within “bundles of limitations” kept in place by still-more-powerful stakeholders. The local non-poor are also the poor held in bondage by another group of non-poor who are operating at a higher level in the system. This staircase of oppression goes all the way from the village to the area, to the nation, and to the global level. Robert Linthicum calls this “systems above systems” (Linthicum 1991, 19).”*
This is the nature of poverty and oppression. Everyone is sinner and sinned against.
What I find most interesting in this brief reference from Myers’ book is that it has the potential to obliterate most of the common misconceptions about poverty relief. I find the graphic extremely thought-provoking. A holistic approach to poverty can not be attempted with what I would call a Contra-Kingdom theology or philosophy. Any “world-view” that doesn’t presuppose a world which God made (Acts 17:24) (Genesis 1:1), a world which we are not of (John 15:19) (1 John 2:15), and a world that Jesus was sent to save (John 3:16) (John 3:17) will fail miserably in poverty relief and in Kingdom transformation. Ultimately, the beginning of the solution to the poverty problem is simple. Stop sinning against others. You may ask, “how am I sinning against the poor whom I don’t even know?” It’s when you pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” and fail to take part in making that a reality. Inaction only reinforces the same ideologies that keeps poverty in place.
I can’t say that we at Pathways International have this all figured out. Nor can I say that we haven’t made our mistakes along the way. What I can say, is that we have a desire to see people in the region where we work find relief from mental, social, physical, and spiritual oppression.
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*Bryant L. Myers (2011-11-09). Walking With The Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Revised and Expanded Edition) (Kindle Locations 3195-3200). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.