Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Serving the poor by teaching them.

It is interesting what has been coming out of the news about a new wave of thinking in Africa. One women wrote a book discrediting the beliefs that all the aid that came into Africa over the years has helped. But instead, made them dependent on it. Hooked onto assistance. She believes if change will happen, it must come from within. the old adage, “give a man a fish, feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”

It seems to be the issues at hand for much of our country, regarding entitlements. government subsidies, and programs. “handouts.” It is a sad story to see the native American story. An independent people who lived off land without a need for printed money. But over time, as we have given them territories of often, barren lands, and offered them various financial assistance. They received checks for the resources taken from that land (oil or natural gas), which has them hooked onto our system for payments. A sweet Shoeshone lady, Sparky, in Wyoming told me all about it one day.
And I grieved at how we in part, made them dependent upon us.

Behind all this often lies a poverty mentality. No sense of making the way through it. rising up. Often, there is very little motivation. Or reason. Those in power, are in power and in control. I will take what I can get.

Karl Marx believed that we needed to overthrow the powers that be. All those benefiting from the working class. We should take them out. And give over control to all the normal joes out there. But the free market capitalist believes that you can earn your way to the top by hard work and dedication. No one requires you to stay stuck in that position. You have a choice to engage, or lay back on the couch and collect government checks. That is the beauty of free markets. You are free to decide.

One of the all time great best-selling books is called, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. As the website explains, “the conspiracy of the rich” It’s premise is that a rich father teaches his son something much different than someone poor. And that secret really leads him down a very different path. I have some good friends who have read it, and reading it. and for awhile, I always saw it as some hoakie get rich quick scheme. But lately, I have been wondering if in it lies more of the answer to our problems in America.

In my field of work, and with Training Ground, much of what we initiate young men into is the world of hardship, suffering, and hard work. Many of these young men need an experience of working with construction workers, and an experience outside the world of academia. And our entitled culture. It can be a wake up call of sorts.

But what about the opposite side? What do they need?

I wonder if part of that book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is offering fathering. Some form of invitiation into capitalism, and business, and understanding of financial systems to get on top of the capitalism ladder.

Getting back to Africa. I wonder what it would mean to father, initiate, and lead these men and women into ways of business, free markets, and economic freedom and prosperity. “teach them to fish.” For people who are poor, and come from poverty, well, they see themselves as always being that. As Jesus speaks of in the parables, you take one talent, and bury it.

A friend, Paul, told me a story of how a project was taking place in Africa where they built a “chicken factory” for thousands of chickens for a village to raise and sell for profit. The delivery of 1,000’s of chickens arrived, and they received a call back in the states with the statement, “they ate all the chickens!”

When you see a chicken. You eat it!

But what does it meant to teach them how to take that chicken, and make a few more, which make a few more, and one talent becomes ten. That doesn’t come very naturally for someone who is just looking for the next meal. Or being handed a fish for the day’s food.

All to say, it seems you have to change the mentality of the people. teach them. Lead them. And call them up. Karl Marx wrote off the wealthy merchant class (bourgeoise) because they did not care but anything but their own profits. Exploiting the lower classes for their own gain. But what if the wealthy class, went and taught this to the poorer class. They taught them their secrets in Jesus. And how to multiply talents.

I just think that would be so beautiful. so redemptive. And to me, instead of dividing the lines further, like all this talk of socialism vs. capitalist, it might merge the two, and make them have a deeper respect for one another. Not to mention what all the rich people would learn from the other side in the process.