Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Friday, March 30, 2012

A glimpse at PoMo Poverty

Here's a glimpse of the first part of PoMo Poverty:  Finding Abundance in the 21st Century.

PoMo Poverty

Finding Abundance in the 21st Century

Tom Spence


©2011 by Tom Spence.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

The contents of this book are unrestricted and may be put to use immediately and repeatedly!

PoMo Poverty

Poverty or Paradox
What can we do?
Towards Abundance
And Back to Paradox
The Abundance of Inclusion

God told them, I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)

Poverty or Paradox

In early 1981, I was hiking into the Philippine jungle with my platoon behind me. I was the third platoon back on the company march along a very narrow trail in which it was difficult for two Marines to walk abreast of each other. We were in the boonies for sure.

After a couple hours of walking, the trail opened up.

To our left was a fair sized house made out of C-Ration cardboard. What ingenuity! What genius. What poverty. A family was living in a house made out of discarded cardboard.

Don’t get me wrong, C-Rat cardboard is the best in the world for waterproofing. It has a fair insulation value. It is sturdy.

How do I know this?

In many a cold and wet moment, a piece of C-Rat cardboard was just the insulation from the cold or wet ground that I needed to get a couple hours of sleep.

These people had built an entire house out of the stuff, to include what seemed to be a garage, at least there was a garage door sized opening that faced the trail which brought us past this unique site. But there was no car in the garage, not even a Jeepney or a bicycle.

Instead, there was a beautiful pool table around which were gathered some young men who seemed to be enjoying themselves and nearly oblivious to our passing.

What a contrast. What a dichotomy. What a paradox. We were witness to luxury within poverty.

Or was this poverty?

The shelter was adequate.

The people were happy.

The jungle was full of food.

It obviously took some sort of income to purchase the table and transport it to this site.

Was this poverty?

What is poverty?

This is 2011, so instead of thumbing through my Webster’s, I found a most comprehensive definition at It follows.

pov·er·ty  [pov-er-tee]


1. the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. Synonyms: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. Antonyms: riches, wealth, plenty.

2. deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil. Synonyms: thinness, poorness, insufficiency.

3. scantiness; insufficiency: Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies. Synonyms: meagerness, inadequacy, sparseness, shortage, paucity, dearth. Antonyms: abundance, surfeit, sufficiency, bounty, glut.

The United States Census Bureau, using a plethora of information and formulae, has defined 48 thresholds of poverty. The income range for poverty in America is roughly between eleven thousand dollars for an individual to forty-two thousand dollars for a very large family.

Wikipedia contributed the following to the definition.

Poverty is the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution refers to being unable to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live in absolute poverty today. Relative poverty refers to lacking a usual or socially acceptable level of resources or income as compared with others within a society or country.

And even in 2011, we cannot exclude Mr. Webster entirely in defining poverty.

1 a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property

2: scarcity, dearth

3 a: debility due to malnutrition b: lack of fertility

A somewhat synthesized definition proved by the search engine Google is:


noun /ˈpävərtē/ 

1. The state of being extremely poor

- thousands of families are living in abject poverty

2. The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount

- the poverty of her imagination

3. The renunciation of the right to individual ownership of property as part of a religious vow

So did this Philippine family live in poverty?

By income standards to which I have grown accustomed, yes. They were outright poor.

By possessing the means to meet their needs, no. These people had an abundance.

This was a paradox of poverty. There was abundance without wealth as we define wealth these days. There appeared to be happiness and contentment in this snapshot view.

There was no further explanation or exploration of this circumstance. When you are a Marine on the move, you make your observations quickly. Assessments may come over time.

We don’t see homeless people in the part of the United States where I live. Somehow, some way, they find shelter.

We don’t see C-Rat houses here either.

Perhaps homelessness is big in the big cities, but most of the population of this nation does not live in the big cities. They live near cities so as to have access to what metropolitan areas have to offer, but for the most part, they live semi-rural areas. Even many who once lived in the suburbs have sought something a little more rural.

Homelessness is not an issue in most of America, but surely poverty is.

We live in what many consider a post modern world. So what does post modern poverty look like?

That will be the first part of this essay.

The second will be to answer the question, “What can we do about it?”

Want more?  Follow this link to PoMo Poverty:  Finding Abundance in the 21st Century in hard copy or buy it in the Kindle Store.  Amazon Prime members may read this book for free.

No comments:

Post a Comment