Friday Sermon: Chronicles of Poverty 3: The Mind Bender


By Babatunde Jose

Poverty is the state of being inadequate or having a lack of. Poverty is often found synonymous with the words poor, hardship and emptiness. Fear is also a state of mind: Fear is an uncomfortable emotion that causes a person to feel threatened or believe that something or somebody will afflict them or cause them some sort of pain. These two words almost carry the same synonyms. It is therefore, safe to say mental poverty is the state of having an unhealthy and poor frame of mind. In these troubling economic times, a lot of men and women are suffering from this mental disease. The overall morale of people has dropped because of the economic recession’s effect on their livelihoods. People are losing their jobs which leads to people losing their houses, cars, families and etc. People are literally losing their minds which is the most important tool that we as people must protect and keep out of harm’s way.

Poverty is a mental illness that if left untreated can hinder us from achieving our full potential. Mental poverty can spread like an uncontrollable forest fire if you do not stop the mindset in its tracks. This negative mindset can be passed along to your progeny if you do not fight to control it. For some people, mental poverty has become a lifestyle. This negative way of life controls a lot of different communities worldwide, especially in Africa. There are several reasons for famine around the globe and poverty of the mind is one of them. Mental famine clouds sound judgments, kills ambition, murders willpower and overthrows your ability to properly maintain self-control.

At the same time poverty bends the mind and the afflicted often become belligerent, short fused and prone to violence as a result of deep resentments against society and the ‘haves’, whom the poor believe are the cause of their condition. It is this last factor that dictated the need for caution and less irritative living on the part of the well to do. Flaunting of wealth becomes an irritant that would sooner or later spark a revolution among the poor: When the poor have nothing to eat, they would eat and consume the rich. Remember, injustice breeds anger and anger breeds violence.

Factors of poverty in one’s mind can be brought on by indecisiveness, procrastination, uncertainty and worrying. Being indecisive is when you do not permit yourself to do your own thinking. Indecisive people let other people think for them and the indecisive always straddle the fence. Fence straddling causes many people to stay stagnant and settle for a life of mediocrity. Procrastination causes people to put off what they should have done today and leave it for the morrow. In some instances with chronic procrastinators, the next day never comes and the habit of putting things off become a permanent stumbling block.

A country’s or a state’s development cannot be measured only in terms of economic progress. The three pillars of progress have to rest on the fundamental tenets of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Till date the vast majority of attempts to accelerate development through economic science has largely excluded the social and environmental aspects of development as most of the belief systems rest on the assumptions that largely free and unfettered markets can solve society’s problems. Weak policy and rules and greed have often lead to expropriation, leakages and rent extraction; enriching a few and pushing more people into poverty.

The problems and challenges in contemporary developing societies however, is almost never really about the poverty of capital, the problem is almost always the poverty of the mind and action. Forms that poverty of the mind can take are – fear, greed, thoughtlessness and paucity of thinking, mediocrity, risk adversity and of course things like jealousy, animosity, malice and harm. And it is the collective poverty of mind and action that drives the poverty of capital and resources leading to poverty in the state and society.

It is said that we can take the nation out of poverty, but we may never take poverty out of the nation. Let us therefore find pathways, where the mind is without fear for collective thought and action in the African society. Let us find economic  and social pathways which not only leads to taking Africa out of poverty into prosperity, but taking poverty out of Africa and breathing the bliss of prosperity for generations to come.

Growing up in poverty can hinder childhood achievement and affect life’s trajectory.

It is not only economic value – it is social value which is equally important and which eventually influences the enhancement of economic value. Economic value creation is not sustainable if social value is ignored. Economic and social development without integrating the environment is akin to committing suicide for our future generations.

Most people who make their living in the underground economy are hungry and angry; their lives are wasting away. They are the millions of reservist for the inevitable coming uprising.

There are glaring example of youth poverty, which we cannot ignore: Millions of children, aged 8 to 18, are living under bridges in our cities and in motor parks. None of them are in school, and those that were fell by the roadside due to a combination of truancy and deviant behaviour; the others had long since been excluded or expelled. Most are on the run and spend their days drinking, sniffing glue, smoking dope, or worse forms of delinquency. Promiscuous, violent, hedonistic, uncontrollable, they steal anything, from mobile phones to ladies hand bags, to outright robbery. Absolute poverty attacks society with a vengeance.

Poverty isn’t only about a lack of money and resources: The worst poverty is found when there is a lack of education, understanding, hope – liberty, fraternity, egality, as the French say. Poverty is a state of mind. No-one is ever going to come along to cure your poverty. The only solution is to do it yourself. Africa must stand up to the challenge of poverty. Only Africans can deliver Africa from this scourge.

Barka Juma’at, Happy Weekend and Happy Independence Anniversary.


Leave a Reply