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Enough for All: How can we effectively address poverty in Minnesota?

The phrase “Enough for All” is the theme of the coming Statewide Gathering to End Poverty by 2020, taking place Thursday at five different sites in Minnesota. Sponsored by A Minnesota Without Poverty, the event will feature several prominent speakers as well as something new — an art exhibition and artistic performances to portray the concept of enough in new and exciting ways. The final event of the gathering will be table conversations entitled “Let’s Talk About Enough.”

In common usage the term enough denotes adequacy or sufficiency to fulfill a need or desire. The difficulty arises when we attempt to separate need from desire. Need relates to survival and human decency, while desire arises more from narcissistic attempts to gratify the human ego.

Played out upon the world stage this conflict between need and desire becomes a heroic struggle between the billions of “have-nots” dwelling on the edges of existence and the small number of “haves” isolating themselves from suffering in their gated enclaves and jet-set sorties away from misery. But the two — whether they know it or not — are inextricably connected.

With the discussion period in mind I think it might be appropriate to mention some of the issues, conflicts, values, needed behaviors and potential outcomes of our conversations. I’ll state them in the form of questions that might be fruitful to discuss during the evening:

  • What is your definition of the term enough?
  • What is the difference between need and desire?
  • How has our society made desires into needs?
  • How can we undo this damage?
  • How much would I be willing to give up to provide enough for all?
  • Is it a zero sum game, with someone losing what others gain? Why, or why not?
  • How will moving toward the goal of enough possibly affect the world’s richest nations?
  • What new political and economic structures and values might be required to provide enough for all?
  • What religious or philosophical basis can you give for believing that all people should have enough?
  • How can we learn to gain status in ways other than amassing power and possessions?
  • What possible ecological outcomes can you see arising from seeking enough for all?
  • How are the rich and the poor inextricable connected? With what results?
  • Is providing enough for all politically and economically sustainable? Why or why not?

In discussions of poverty you’ll often encounter a strongly held feeling of resigned helplessness that dismisses the subject with comments like, “Yes, it’s terrible, but it’s always been this way, so why should it change now?” The difference is that there haven’t always been the available resources to end poverty, but that has changed. There is now enough for all, but we lack the political will to make the sometimes painful choices that would distribute resources more fairly and widely.

So perhaps another goal of our deliberations should be to create a bit of cognitive dissonance in the thinking of those of us who already have enough. Maybe we should take seriously the wisdom of this ancient proverb: “Injustice will not end until those who are not harmed become as incensed as those who are.” We need to become a bit more incensed at injustice and at those who mistakenly tolerate and excuse it.

Poverty can be conquered if we will care for the poor, deprived and victimized of society even a fraction as much as we care for ourselves.

Jim Jordal is a retired teacher of economics and American history who now lives in rural Chisago County, Minn. He has studied his passion — economic justice — for many years and writes newspaper columns, blogs and study lessons on the subject. Jim and his wife, Mary, enjoy many sports, travel, family and community volunteering. You can reach them here.

The five sites for Thursday’s Enough for All events are:

Minneapolis: McNamara Alumni Center, U of Minnesota
Duluth: Peace United Church of Christ
Fergus Falls: West Central Initiative
Rochester
: Bethel Lutheran Church

Willmar
: Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building

More information can be found here.

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