Monday, May 13, 2013

Manipulating the poor
By Editor
Sun 12 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

Fackson Shamenda says manipulating the poor and abusing public resources leads to destruction. It can't be disputed.

It is said that manipulators have never deserved anybody's respect or been successful anywhere. Manipulators are like little sailboats that go with the wind and the waves. Manipulation is synonymous with opportunism. Manipulation doesn't have substance; it doesn't have roots. We think that everything is possible among people who are honest with themselves and with others.

Manipulating the poor to benefit oneself politically or otherwise is cruel. And as Fidel Castro once remarked, "He who betrays the poor betrays Christ."

We are reminded in Proverbs 30:14: "There are people who take cruel advantage of the poor and needy; that is the way they make their living." And we are also directed in Proverbs 31:8-9: "Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless. Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy."

Shamenda says the priority of the Patriotic Front and its government is to attend to the needs of the majority poor. A poor people's government protects the poor. Only when the poor have such a government can they educate and remould themselves on a countrywide scale, with everyone taking part and not allow themselves to be led astray by manipulators and all sorts of opportunists.

The enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living by the poor requires, on the part of the government, a preferential option for the poor.

The Patriotic Front and its government seems to be very clear about its mission to serve the poor. And in this preferential option for the poor, which should not be understood as something exclusive, the true spirit of the Gospel shines. Jesus declared the poor to be blessed (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20) and he himself wanted to be poor for our sake (2 Cor 8:9). It is the realisation that in situations of poverty, we are called upon to make a preferential option for the poor.

And by a preferential option for the poor, we mean a special solidarity with those who are in any way deprived or placed at a disadvantage in society. It is motivated by the love that God wishes us to have for all people. Through this love, we desire that the rights and dignity of every person may be respected. Therefore, we are drawn to the side of those who are deprived of justice and robbed of human dignity. This is described as "preferential" rather than "exclusive" because it does not imply the exclusion of anyone from care, respect or love. What we desire for the poor we desire for all people. If the poor are given preferential treatment, it is because of the greatness of their disadvantage. The aim here is not to create a new elitism, but to bring about a situation of justice and equality.

Preferential option for the poor may be compared to the special concern that a family would have to one of its members in distress. What is given to the one is not taken away from the others. This kind of preference was a distinct characteristic of Jesus, who always showed a special care for the poor, the sick, the marginalised and the defenceless (Mt 11:4; 5:25-30).

Since, in practice, the common good is not sufficiently cherished, and since too many people fail to live in solidarity with the community, it is inevitable that there are those who suffer as a result of these failures. These are the poor, those living on the margins of the community, those whose interests have been neglected or ignored. As such, they are especially entitled to solidarity, to the special commitment of the rest of the community to remedy the situation in which they find themselves. It is this special commitment which we call the "preferential treatment of the poor".

In practical terms, it means that our economic actions and decisions must not only avoid harming the interests of the poor, but must actually contribute to their upliftment.

For this reason, economic efficiency is not the primary consideration; the poor must be given privileged treatment, even at the cost of some measure of technical inefficiency. The option for the poor can be exercised not only in favour of the materially poor, about whom we are mainly concerned here, but also towards those who have been marginalised because of gender, disability or for whatever reason. Indeed, such classes of people often tend to be materially poor as well, as a direct result of being marginalised.

Also, it must be understood that the poor are not passive recipients of this option, but active participants in its exercise. They must demand what the common good requires for them and they must exercise the same solidarity among each other as the community as a whole must show to them.

Of course, the option for the poor is not an option against the rich. We are bound together and what serves the interest of the common good also serves our interests as individuals. Therefore, the option for the poor is a call to the rich to participate in the upliftment of the poor, to the benefit of the whole society.

It shouldn't be forgotten that this preferential option for the poor is also built upon the concept that Christ is in those who are poor and have no food, shelter and clothing. When these people go hungry and suffer, Christ suffers as well. A human being has a right to eat. When a person goes hungry, Christ goes hungry. When a person is hungry after being denied food, Christ has been denied food (Mt 25:31-36).

So the Patriotic Front and its government's prioritisation of the needs of the majority poor is well founded in Christ's doctrine and as such deserves the support of all. Everything they say or do to uplift the living conditions of the poor deserves respect and support.

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