Historical Manifestations of Poverty and Class Divisions

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  With the African sun beating down, I don’t have much energy for a vigorous yoga practice, so I find a nice shady spot and if I’m lucky, one that comes with a breeze, and I’ll settle in with a book.  I was gifted with many electronic versions of books ranging in subject from yoga to Reiki, fiction stories to historical non-fiction.

The fact that the books are electronic posed a bit of a challenge, given the constraint of electricity here.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky to be in a city that has electricity even for a small window most days.  Out in the rural areas, electricity only comes from a generator, and those are few and far between.  I’ve discovered, though, that the smartphone I have will hold electronic copies of books, and will also be recharged by my computer.  Thus, I bounce back and forth between laptop and cell phone devouring book after book.

I’ve been reading a lot of Dickens, as well as more contemporary fiction and non-fiction set in the late eighteen hundreds and also encompassing the two world wars.  I’m struck by the descriptions of the poor because they mimic what I’ve observed here in Africa.

Dickens describes a world of poverty coexisting next to a much smaller realm of wealth and privilege.  He speaks of trash building up in the street and the smell of human waste running open in throughout London.  While the human waste disposal here does not run in the streets, the trash is omnipresent.  There is also a huge disparity of wealth, with a small sliver of the population living well above the poverty level that most Guineans occupy.

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

Many authors of fiction and non-fiction alike relate an attitude of the ruling class that the people in poverty are thus because of a lack of motivation or intelligence.  In the books set at the turn of the twentieth century, theories abound that the poor classes, be they slaves, poor Irish, or the British underclass, are intrinsically different from the wealthier people, so much so that they are of a different breed of Homosapien altogether.

Thankfully we are a society more enlightened these days.  But what these differences speak to is a failure to recognize the one beating heart that we all share.  We are each of us a manifestation of the Divine, and each of us share all the gifts and challenges of the One Human Spirit.  When we’re able to fully look this truth in the face, it’s impossible not to have a deep compassion and a desire to help those living in such precarious situations.

It’s much easier for the mind to create the justification that it’s okay for those people to live like that because they are not like us.  When we do this, we create a defense mechanism that says it’s people’s own faults that their lives aren’t better.  They don’t work because they are lazy, not because there is no opportunity to work.  They are sick because they are naturally dirty, not because living conditions have left them with little opportunity to cook with and bathe in clean water.

Not to say that people living in poverty are all pristine examples of the best human being we can be.  Like people everywhere, humanity falls on a continuum– most falling somewhere in the middle grey area, a little goodness and a plenty of flaws all sprinkled together to make the ever-striving One Human Spirit.

The trick is not falling for the maya, the illusion that you are you and they are they.  Don’t buy the tired story line that we are a species apart from them.  I think more and more people, in this enlightened Aquarian age we find ourselves in are waking up to that fact and working to unite the wildly different levels of economic disparity that exist.  The more we’re able to recognize our one shared heart, the more we can work to lift each other up.

TO EXPERIENCE THE DIVINITY WITHIN AND THE ONE BEATING HEART OF ALL OF HUMANITY, TRY CHANTING THIS MANTRA.

HUMEE HUM BRAHM HUM, “WE ARE WE, WE ARE GOD.”  THIS MANTRA WILL DISSOLVE THE WALLS OF SEPARATION THAT MAYA BUILT AND ALLOW YOU TO SIT IN THE PEACEFUL REMEMBERANCE THAT WE ARE ALL ONE.  WE ARE WE, WE ARE GOD.  I AM YOU AND YOU ARE I, ALL IS ONE

The beautiful result of doing the hard work of first recognizing where you might hold unearned privilege or advantage and then releasing that to the advantage of somebody else is that ultimately, you are lifted up too.  As the conditions of one improve, so do the conditions of all.

In my own space and time, that lesson has come through lately with an intense gifting of what I have to help others.  This hasn’t always come easily.  Sometimes, this gifting means that I’m giving away one of my last dollars to help somebody get necessary food or medicine.  More often, it’s a smaller release, giving away one of my items of clothing to somebody in need, or a wrap because it will bring a smile. The natural impulse that I fight is the one of grasping on to what I have, which arises out of fear.  When I am not able to trust that Spirit will provide, then I am in a state of fear and want to hold tightly to the resources that I have.  As my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher often reminded me, we never want to act out of a place of fear.  When I can sit in the yogic practice of aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, then I can recognize the fact that we are not owners of anything.  Rather, like the tides that rise and fall, resources enter and leave our lives in cycles and waves.  When we are lucky enough to have, it is nothing less than ungrateful to share.  When we’re able to sit in the ultimate trust that Spirit will provide, then we can give without reserve and live fully from the compassionate heart.

 

 

 

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