What Will We do When there are No More Poor People?

world without poverty has been predicted to arrive by 2035. This is a cause for celebration. However, is it also a cause for consternation?

Surprisingly, yes.

A lot of us need poor people. Here are just a few of the ways:

o    Without someone to ladle soup for, how will we teach our children about gratitude?

o    Without a family to adopt during the holidays, how will we assuage our guilt for having it so good?

o    Without community service opportunities, how will teenagers pad their college applications?

o    Without someone to build homes for, what alternative would college students choose over a raucous spring break?

o    Without someone to accept the stuff we do not want, how will we clean out our closets without adding to the landfill and get our tax deduction?

o    Without a community to randomize into treatment and non-treatment groups, how will we make progress on our research programs, get published and become tenured?

o    Without someone to save, how will we become a CNN Hero?

o    Without a village in dire need, how can we commit to make a difference in things that are largely out of our control and get invited to shake Bill Clinton’s hand?

o    Without service learning opportunities, how will we build purpose into our classroom curriculums?

o    Without someone to move out of poverty, what reason will world leaders have to convene conferences in exotic locations to solve a problem that they had a hand in creating?

o    Without someone to serve, how will we signal our moral superiority to family and friends at social gatherings?

o    Without someone to clothe, how will we market and sell poorly constructed yet overpriced shoes?

o    Without someone to feed, how will US farmers and shippers profit from food aid?

o    Without someone to advocate for, who will our politicians surround themselves with when they wish to redirect our attention away from a scandal?

o    Without a poor child of color to sit on their laps, how will celebrities reignite a career that is long in the tooth?

o    Without someone living in misery, how will social entrepreneurs make money and “do good” at the same time?

o    Without someone in Africa in need of life-saving treatment, how will we be able to go on a shopping spree at Gap and the Apple Store and feel like we are making a difference while doing it?

o    Without poor children of color to surround ourselves with, how will we get our poverty photo-op (see above)?

A lot of the questions arise from my personal and professional relationships with poverty and the poor. What questions could you add to the list?


If you enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy my This is the Work newsletter.

Thanks. – shawn


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