Saturday, April 26, 2014


Sunday Morning Sermon - April 27 2014

When it comes to poverty in the USA, there are two main lines of thought. The most common one is that a person is poor because of personal traits. These traits in turn have caused the person to fail. Supposed traits range from personality characteristics, such as laziness, to educational levels. Despite this range, it is always viewed as the individual's personal failure not to climb out of poverty. 

Another theory that is postulated is a contrary argument to this idea that personal failings are the cause of poverty. The argument presented is that US poverty is a result of “failings at the structural level. Key social and economic structural failings which contribute heavily to poverty within the U.S. are identified in the article. The first is a failure of the job market to provide a proper amount of jobs which pay enough to keep families out of poverty. Even if unemployment is low, the labor market may be saturated with low-paying, part-time work that lacks benefits (thus limiting the amount of full-time, good paying jobs). 

Development plays a central role to poverty reduction in the third world. Some sociologists feel that the national mindset itself plays a role in the ability for a country to develop and to thus reduce poverty.

Some theorists believe the way poverty is approached, defined, and thus thought about, plays a role in its perpetuation. When poverty is a prescribed agency, it becomes something that happens to people. Poverty absorbs people into itself and the people, in turn, become a part of poverty, devoid of their human characteristics. In the same way, poverty is viewed as an object in which all social relations are obscured. Issues such as structural failings, institutionalized inequalities, or corruption may lie at the heart of a region's poverty, but these are obscured by broad statements about poverty.

The term “poverty”, is often used in a generalized matter. This further removes the poor from defining their situation as the broadness of the term covers differences in histories and causes of local inequalities. Solutions or plans for reduction of poverty often fail precisely because the context of a region's poverty is removed and local conditions are not considered.

The specific ways in which the poor and poverty are recognized frame them in a negative light. In development literature, poverty becomes something to be eradicated, or, attacked. It is always portrayed as a singular problem to be fixed. When a negative view of poverty (as an animate object) is fostered, it can often lead to an extension of negativity to those who are experiencing it. This in turn can lead to justification of inequalities through the idea of the deserving poor. Even if thought patterns do not go as far as justification, the negative light poverty is viewed does much to ensure little change in the policies of redistribution.

The environment of poverty is one marked with unstable conditions and a lack of capital (both social and economical) which together create the vulnerability characteristic of poverty. Because a person's daily life is lived within the person's environment, a person's environment determines daily decisions and actions based on what is present and what is not. The poor's daily practice of navigating the world of poverty generates a fluency in the poverty environment but a near illiteracy in the environment of the larger society. Thus, when a poor person enters into transactions and interactions with the social norm, that person's understanding of it is limited, and thus decisions revert to decisions most effective in the poverty environment. Through this a sort of cycle is born in which the “dimensions of poverty are not merely additive, but are interacting and reinforcing in nature.
 The unstable life of poverty often limits the poor's aspiration levels to those of necessity (such as having food to feed ones family) and in turn reinforces the lowered aspiration levels (someone who is busy studying, instead of looking for ways to get enough food, will not survive long in the poverty environment). Because the capacity to aspire (or lack thereof) reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of poverty, Expanding the poor's aspiration horizon will help the poor to find both voice and exit. Ways of doing this include changing the terms of recognition and/or creating programs which provide the poor with an arena in which to practice capacities. An example of one such arena may be a housing development built for the poor, by the poor. Through this, the poor are able to not only show their abilities but to also gain practice dealing with governmental agencies and society at large. 

At the end of the day it is only compassion that can lead the way towards sharing and the eventual comforts reaped of moving away from poverty.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

What have we learned from War?

Sunday Morning Sermon - Apr 20 2014

The landmark LTTE war of thirty long years in our beautiful homeland has fed books and articles, inspired slogans and headlines, initiated protests and cries, and even became the focus of global media attention with Norway playing a significant role within the rebel camps. 

Since this event Sri Lanka has moved from a tea producing domestic labor supplying nation to a warring one. Thus Sri Lanka became a universal synonym for division. That’s what the world sees, but if you lived through the war, what was it to you? Was it a daily seesaw of life or death? Or was it the smell of blood that you could never shake off? The sight of destroyed buildings, bullet-ridden walls in half-standing, windowless buildings; or the stink of humidity and death in shelters where people gathered and made the best out of their worst nightmare? Maybe it’s the fleeing trips to the unknown with nothing but your tired sleepless body. Where did you hide from the indiscriminate suicide bomb attacks, sniper bullets, white vans or abductions? 

Was it your kitchen, the dining room or that space in the back of the house that gave you the false feeling of safety just because it was dark? Who did you hug when you were scared? Did you observe the palpitation of your heart for the various sounds: The news flash on the radio, the shelling as it departs, its whizzing overhead and its landing. Do you remember the bombings that brought down entire buildings nearby? The screams that ensued, the dust, the sadness, the inability to move as the skies rained on you more shells and more deafening noises of death, hate and destruction. 

Did your heart ever rejoice at the possibility that you could be next to get the hit so you too can get a taste of the finality of it all? Did you feel guilty or lucky that others died but not you? 

What do you remember of the war? Is it how life was interrupted on a regular basis but you still carried on with classes, exams, jobs and entertainment? Or is it the time you were kidnapped and beaten unconscious because you could not say "bucket" correctly in the vernacular? Is it when dozens of men you know were massacred as they attended a funeral for no reason other than blinding hatred and total fog of war? 

Death does not distinguish among ethnic groups, nor is a massacre more justified than another. Loss is painful and life is precious for all. At the end of those bloody thirty years we still have to see the resettlement of the refugees and the homeless. 

While everyone rushed to live, no one paused to reflect on what had happened and the war simply hid in old archaic mentalities. Today, we witness the same hatred, divisions, and ignorance. No matter what we think we learned from the war, it seems we have not learned anything at all!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Human Rights Deception

Sunday Morning Sermon Apr 6 2014

So we think we enjoy human rights, huh? Do we really? Maybe, yes, some of it at some points and situations in our lives. But is there a global commitment that we can clearly see towards getting there? I a, not too sure.

Running through Chrstian Amanpour's CNN story about how the 2,000+ indigenous people of Diego Garcia were uprooted from their native soil and planted into stinking ghetto's in Mauritius, made me mad. Was this really something that could happen? Especially in the hands of the UK and the USA, two massive campaigners for Human Rights across the globe. They, who waged wears, invaded nations, subdued dictators, and caused mayhem to so may millions of innocent people under the cover of protecting human rights?

Doesnt make much sense, does it?

Take a look at how these so called legal eagles conduct themselves in courts of law in democratic nations where the onus is on the prosecution to prove the accused guilty. How often do we see people being arrested, confined to cells without trial or access to valid legal recourse in these first world nations? How often do we hear of lawyers trying to protect the innocence of their contents even if they were fully aware that the individual is guilty? What lies, deceptions, and legal caveats they pluck to get their clients free?

Where is all the human rights in these affairs? Whose rights are they protecting and whose rights are they abusing?

While most folks respect and honor the judicial systems in democratic nations the basic premise on which it is established seems to be flawed. How can a legal professional protect his client using such falsehood and deceit? Doesnt that act itself defeat the whole legal process in one vicious sweep of the scabbard?

Surely, dont the legal men and women, at least those who possess some semblance of honor and justice, see through this gaping hole in the system and try to have it fixed., permanently, for the good of all humanity?

Vietnam, Korea, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, are all gross examples of how innocent peoples human rights have been abused and violated over the past decades.

And finally, look at the silly status of the United Nations, who were set up to uphold the rights of all, in its many declarations, votes, and sanctions it has imposed on nations and peoples using the brute force of a few powerful countries?

What a crazy cocked up world we live in?