Fw: Is it better to know or not to know???

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (icanamerica@email.msn.com)
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 01:22:47 -0400


Laura,

I think your point is very important.  And yes, in some ways I believe that
the poor in the US are in worse shape then the poor in other countries.  One
of the manifestations of this is the level of violence that poor people face
and feel compeled to participate in.  James Gilligan has wrote an absolutely
brilliant book on violence called Violence: A National Epidemic and he makes
the point that most violence is a response to intense and debilitating
feelings of shame.  Certainly in the US...where there is so much visible
wealth and privilige alongside poverty...the poor are much more likely to
feel intense shame...and so much more likely to engage in acts of violence
(I am not getting into the issue of poverty itself being a form of
violence...which I believe it is).

One of the insights I have gained after having lived on the streets for many
years is that the deepest tragedy of poverty is not the lack of objective
material wealth (poverty was not brutal because I did not have steak and
lobster).  It is the fundamental communication that an individual has
absolutely no intrinisc worth whatsoever that is the real violence of
poverty. It is looking at people with their homes and cars and tvs and
wealth and cafes and knowing that those comforts seem to be more important
then your survival.  And since that is the worst aspect of poverty the
progressive people looking to end poverty need to understand how to build
deep relationships with poor people so they can communicate how precious and
valuable they are as human beings.  It is, in the end, a spiritual
endeavor...at least on one important level.

sincerely,
Jesse Mentken


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