Nº 115.- About Poverty
Of Reflections, this subject may be the most complicated. All people want to possess more things than those that they possess: destitute persons, professionals, traders, and quite wealthy people. Certain North-American magazine usually reveals the wealth of the richest persons in the world, giving figures that, according to their dimensions, become meaningless. It is a race among figures in dollars where some people are running behind others to reach and overpass them. To become the number one, like in tennis and golf, measured by money. The one who is rich has met entirely his needs, but wants more and more. A New York swindler, Bernard Madoff, had three yachts, one at New York, other in the Caribbean, and another in the Mediterranean, a lot of mansions, planes, and limousines. Money belongs to Satan; even Freud has written about these things in his researches.
Members of religious orders have taken a vow of poverty although they do not fulfill them; those things not registered under their personal name, are enjoyed by them through possessions of the Church. Even Bishops have taken perpetual vows, but they have at heir disposal riches of their institutions, and in some nations, as in Argentina, the State is paying their salaries. Where is that poverty that Jesus has preached?
Now China is the wealthiest nation in the world: China supports and pays credits from the United States which every day more and more involved with international finance speculation. The United States and their 14 giant air-craft carriers that are quite costly to keep and operate are useless, except for war prestige, while needs of the people and even poverty is increasing without solution. As much among nations as among particular people, wealth and poverty are a question of vanity, of what people may say, and of social, political and military status. During the Vietnam War, local peasants were poor and North American invaders very rich. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense and planner of the invasion, told that war is a question of numbers. But in Vietnam, the spirit of the people overcame the hellish weapon power. Poverty or riches is not a question of more or less, but an inner value. The most perfect definition of poverty is in Jesus’ prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”. And every evening Buddha was walking with his disciples holding his bowl and asking a little of food. As soon as he had food enough, after thanking for it, he left. It was his unique food. He was a perfect poor according to his qualities.
Usually, in Mendoza Province, Argentina, an old boy finishes his secondary school and does not continue his studies and rather he works for buying, for instance, a car. If his family is numerous, you may see in front of his house four or five cars, one for every one. His entire life, he will work at a hardware shop or at any store, and will measure his own progress by the car he is driving. He knows nothing about riches, poverty or family dignity, but he does about pleasure of consumerism and possessions. Money was ever scarce among the Chinese, but now they are imitating more and more his own European exploiters. Surely, they will have the same end as those people do.
The subject is complicated because ultimately it is not a question of money but of an inner value of the person. You can have a lot of money and be spiritually quite poor, like the Merchant of Venice. Great and exemplary souls have lived modestly: Saint Vincent of Paul and Saint John Bosco (Don Bosco); Generals San Martín and Belgrano donated every prize they got for the construction of schools and libraries. If one examines personal lives of the rich, we can see they are worthless and, like the destitute, they only want to consume, show off and enjoy luxury given by their wealth, and most times, to know any degrading vice. May there be something more ridiculous than a personal space trip for 20 million dollars during a week? There is a problem among absolutist kings and rich people –they are bored and do not now what to do with their time. To give? To share? Never! They are living alone, in their existential mediocrity. Jacqueline Kennedy, the Aristotle Onassis’ wife, under an agreement for three million dollars a month, visited luxury stores buying dozens of clothes and jewels never to use them. In Argentina, in times of “sweet cash”, tourists went abroad to buy cheap and a motto is left: Give me two! Now Chileans are coming to Mendoza with the same purpose and words: Give me two!
Theoretically and factually, poverty remains a subject without solution. International economy institutions –World Bank, Federal Investment Council, International Bank, et cetera– with their own qualifications and concerns rule over the world economy and divide nations into first world, third world, and so on. Poor people are those who earn 1,50 dollar a day – including monks that have nothing to earn– and are put in iron social pigeonholes and discriminatory politics. The United Nations have many institutions dedicated to promote culture, health, infancy, et cetera, but no institutions dealing to defend the poor in the world. What is to be poor? How did Saint Francis of Assisi live under 1,50 dollar according to the World Bank rule? In my opinion, a balanced rule should be created: dividing the world brute product by 7,000 million inhabitants of the Planet and fixing such figure as a fair and equal distribution measure for all, without exception, and also make governments feel obliged to fulfill such objective
Nowadays in human evolution, separation between the rich and poor, with a lot of resources, universal education, science breakthroughs, and technology, becomes an insult to Mankind. For the past two centuries, we have had outstanding personalities on any social level, from exemplary Saints (Saint Therese of Calcutta, Santiago Bovisio, Vivekananda) prominent researchers (Pasteur, Von Braun, Darwin), industrialists (Henry Ford, Otto Daimler), progressive politicians (Gandhi, Mao, De Gaulle), and a numerous middle-class willing to live honestly and devoted to work and education; but by reasons still unexplained, modern society collapsed by injustice and now is at the doors of extinction. No serious study has been made about modern situation or causes of its decadence, although all are aware of it. Now there is no time for amending the direction. Those days when we could work for change are over; covetousness has overcome. Even the Holy Cafh Order, established in 1937, before the Second World War, with every theoretical and human possibility at its disposal, has ended because of material covetousness of its followers after the Founder’s death. Even civilization is ending because of covetousness and accumulation of riches in some few hands, and we’ll have to expect perhaps for centuries of continuous correction, until a new man may be able to live the law of Renunciation, comfortably at his environment, healthy, and sufficiently fed.
But the first Aquarians stay along with us and make efforts to live the new law. They can do it in economy activities when and if they are able to listen to the conscience voice indicating them forms of the New World, without dogmas or impracticable regulations, directing their searches according to their basic personal and family needs, and getting rid of those opportunities offered by a decadent society.
Master Santiago was living in poverty along with his family at a little apartment near Constitution Square in Buenos Aires City. He had an excellent library made by him year by year. He educated his children at the University. He was an efficient cook and usually cooked for his family. He travelled trough public transportation. His clothes were strictly necessary and modest. He used to say: “Even with all money from the world, I would live exactly as I do now”. His standard of living was fixed by him and not by someone else. He practiced Providential Economy, and never underwent financial needs. As the Community of Ordained Sons, in La Plata City, was able to save some money, the Master took it for the Charitable Fund of Cafh. A Superior complained because of lack of money and the Master replied: “Mr. Alberto, in this country you’ll never lack one slice of bread”.
A person who studies the Canon Teachings and wishes to practice them for him or his family can find in those pages thousands of ideas and examples that will help him to reach a fair balance between needs of nutritional, cultural, educational and social kind, and material possibilities to achieve it. Renunciation is the key to success. No to this unnecessary propaganda! No to that frivolous offer! No to pools coupons and games of chance through prizes that we did not earn! No to appearance and vanity! Why to look for a fleeting entertainment in chimeras when life is offering us a permanent and noble occupation? To study and learn until the final years. To help the needy in streets, hospitals and schools. Through the Canon Teachings you’ll find a higher meaning in your daily activities. Master Santiago said: “Spiritual life is embellishment of simple things”.
Here is the true poverty eventually conveyed on the light of the Renunciation doctrine. To be poor does not mean to be destitute but to establish a fair balance between personality and economy, to have an inner dynamics for a detached use of valuable things, books, music instruments, even new cars and jewels. According to Renunciation, to be poor is harmony between the man who is internally developed and his outer world around.
Reader: You and I, friends, children and old persons, even sick people and healthy young men and women can be joyful privileged poor persons meditating permanently on Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.