To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Saturday, February 24, 2024


The Poverty Game



A disturbing newspaper article March 13 reported over 40 Somalians being killed by the collapse of a giant trash heap in the capital city of Mogadishu. It was a real trash landslide from a “landfill” that was 50 years old. This situation begged the question: What were all those people doing in the proximity of an unstable garbage pile? The answer is: They lived there. They were itinerate scavengers living off the refuse of others.

Somalia is also in the middle of a horrific drought that is killing hundreds of people per day. There is no food and the political wrangling among nations is preventing the wholesale influx of life-saving food and medical supplies. Clearly, this nation on the horn of Africa is in deep trouble, at least as far as human existence is concerned. Oh, and they don’t really have a government that deals with their human problems. In fact, few experts have been able to define what sort of government exists there … if any.

Further into the news of the day, I came across an article about a recent dump of 140 million gallons of raw sewage into the Tijuana River in Tijuana, BC, Mexico. The bad news for Americans is that this river flows west-northwest across the U.S.-Mexican border and empties into the Pacific Ocean near Imperial Beach, CA, about 20 short miles from the dump site.

As a former resident of San Diego, I recalled periodic spills of sewage similar to this one. There always followed a flurry of protests and promises that this would be fixed and that the Mexican infrastructure would be expanded to prevent a recurrence. It kept recurring, of course. Closed beaches, algae blooms and communicable disease warnings are the constant reminder of why treating sewage is a good thing for the benefit of the human beings living downstream.

Apart from the dozens of shooting wars going on around the world, the single thing that links these human tragedies is poverty. The people in Syria are packing what few belongings they own and getting the hell out of that country as fast as non-xenophobic countries will accept them. Why? Because some religious lunatics want to kill anybody and everybody that doesn’t think like they do. Sound familiar?

What group of religious extremists around the world is not waging some sort of war against the other?

Even the people in relatively civilized nations around the world deal with very large separations of income and wealth. And in those countries, the richest are trying to demonize the poorest so they can squeeze the last dollar, shilling, peso, pound or rial out of those people in the working and “lower” classes.

Why is that still an issue? Why is it that only 400 individuals own more wealth than over 50% of the rest of the 7.5 billion people on Earth? What’s so great about having more money than one can possibly spend, more political clout than any government can endure and still remain a government and a villa on every continent except Antarctica. No warm beaches or palm trees in Antarctica is the only limiting factor, I’m sure.

But even Antarctica isn’t safe from the greedy maw of the 400. These folks, and their surrogates, are lining up to exploit any mineral wealth that the frozen continent can provide – when it thaws enough to become available. A total cynic might suggest that that is the ulterior motive for global climate change and warming: The exploitation of Greenland and Antarctica.

The 400, of course, will deny not only global warming, but also their insidious motives for more wealth. Example? The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has just decreed that, despite overwhelming evidence from everyone sitting upright, carbon dioxide is not the main cause of global warming. Mind you, this is a quantum leap forward.

There are still those left in Oklahoma’s government caucuses who deny climate change altogether. Science, be damned! Consensus, be damned! Their beliefs, purchased by the oil moguls and members of the 400, dictate that humans are not to blame for any of the melting glaciers and monster storms, etc.

What is tragically ironic to this writer is the fact that the more the rich want to get richer [John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, once answered the question about how much wealth did he really want, by saying, “Just a little more”] the poor get poorer.

They have no resources or power to change their lot in life. They cannot make new job markets. They cannot promote urban renewal programs. They cannot create clean, safe and up-to-date schools, hospitals and infrastructure no matter the socio-economic status of their country.

The poor are still the slaves of the rich and powerful. Will this always be the case?

The weird thing is, we know how to fix this planetary destruction. We know there are too many people on Earth for its ability to support us as the most populous mammalian species. We know how to create jobs, new technologies to ease lives of hardship and want. We know how to make tangible things.

We know the differences between greed and nobles oblige. We know how to save ourselves from imminent destruction, but we also know how to destroy most, if not all, life on Earth.

How is it, then, that with knowing so much, we do so little about it? Why do we keep making things worse instead of better for all living things on Earth? Why do we keep building new and more nuclear weapons?

We know that birth control works, but religions say that we can’t do that. We know that there are foods available, but religions say we can’t eat this or that. We know that committing genocide on one population or another is counterproductive to everyone except that the rich keep promoting and weaponizing those actions. We know that terminating unwanted pregnancies does more good than harm to a society that either doesn’t want to help support the unwanted child, or is too poor to do so. But religion and basic drives prevent that kind of action. We know that a society filled with as many guns as people is stupid, dangerous and a ticket to ultimate oblivion. We know all these things, yet we allow them to happen.

There are poor people running for their lives out of South and Central America because the United States has become the drug sink of the world. Oh, the laws in our fair land say no to drugs, but the drugs keep being demanded by an ever-expanding portion of our population.

Yet, even the poorest of Americans demand the drugs of escape and bodily harm as a way of life. That demand acts like a siphon drawing up the illegal chemical industries of Latin America into our lives.

My home state of Ohio is now the drug death capital [per capita] of America with West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania close behind. The main thing those states have in common is large pockets of poverty. Yet, even farmers in the rural parts of the states are succumbing to the lure of methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin and other opioids. Why?

Is our society so bored and holds such a low view of prospects for a good life among its younger people who are killing themselves that escape drugs are the only answer? What went wrong?

Not funding education, sending good jobs and good job prospects to other countries, dumbing down our school curricula, making schools and health care a constant debate about them being profit centers instead of rights, waging constant war against the lunacy of terrorism and sacrificing our founders’ ideals for money, profit and self-centered politics are some of the reasons.

Those of you who bothered to read this far know how to solve our problems by addressing any or all of the reasons in the above paragraph. We’re not going to be able to squelch greed in a capitalistic economy, but we can do the right thing by our people to get them off drugs by providing a worthwhile lifestyle for everyone. We can put any number of people to work repairing the blight of our inner cities where the core of poverty has always resided.

Yes, we in the United States can do these things.

I think we’d better start doing those things that will save us from our ultimate fate as a failed society, instead of trying to get only certain religions taught in public schools, or continuing to debate the facts of evolution and birth control.

If we don’t, we all may be at the bottom of a garbage landslide that will bury our good works and any decent future for all humans on Earth.

Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through

Vern Turner
Vern Turner
Denver resident Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump, is available through Amazon.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.