Poverty remains a colossal pain in the hearts of every society, recurring in every civilization. And though it yet seems immune to solutions despite advancements in every field of knowledge, we have been able to gain valuable insights over the years.
In the throes of poverty, not only is the thinking altered, values may also be corrupted. Worse still, a warped mindset combined with a corrupt value re engineer one’s outlook on life. And while the victims focus on the issue of lack of access to basic amenities, poor health-care and the consequent low quality of life which often accompany poverty, a substantial amount of the effect is felt in the mind, however subliminally, unbeknownst to them.
Just like any other unsuspecting individual, I once was oblivious to this psycho social effect of poverty as I already pigeonholed it as a mere biological or social lack. This is far from it. I would later- after several years of careful observation, and thorough examination into the mindset of people who came from nothing -come to understand how poverty impinges upon thought-processes and, by extension, reality.
Growing up in a poverty-stricken environment can beset even the most strong-willed persons in ways they never thought or even considered possible. Without a meticulous evaluation on the part of its victims, very little to nothing is known regarding the walls of psychological and perceptual degeneration- which may seem unobtrusive at the earliest stage -built around him or her, to ultimately disrupt their thinking. This psychic effect embodies but not limited to low self-esteem, a sense of entitlement, alms (charity) mentality, fatalism, and a culture of mediocrity.
Usually, people raised in the settings of poverty are more predisposed to belief in fatalism, and tend to be irrationally religious. This in turn cause them to invariably react to their surroundings rather than be the causal agents. This is not surprising. When everything one may ever think of, say, for instance, quality education or great health care- which may be cardinal to one’s progress, and may consequently lead to a better life -is constantly out of one’s reach, and the struggle for success is instantly met with futility, self efficacy depletes; the future becomes bleak; then a spurious conception will emerge. This conception will, over time, morph into a believe system. Now, with this sort of mindset, we have a people who give up on life, embrace mediocrity, and believe the progress of a nation rests solely on fate or God.
During the course of my short stay in Lokoja, Nigeria, 2016, I came upon a young girl of about fourteen years old. Her story was a deeply emotional one: she was raped by the son of a prominent politician while serving as a maid. All efforts to get her the justice she deserves, according to her, was precluded by none other than her family. In her words: “my parents say I should leave the fight for God,” she recounted. Knowing she came from nothing, it wasn’t hard to guess- fatalism was at play. Her parent had made her understand they lack the wherewithal to pursue justice, and that it was best to leave the fight to God, she told me.
Another critical impact of growing up in poverty is a sense of entitlement. In the ranks of effects, the issue of entitlement takes a pivotal seat. From every nuance, utterance and decision-making of an improvised individual reeks a sense of entitlement. To a man of empty stomach (the poor), everyone owes him something.
Following closely in tandem is the alms (charity) mentality. Poverty beggars people to charity. It instills the belief that nothing can be achieved without outside help, which may linger way past the poverty domain.
In Nigeria, the poverty capital of the world, where over 87 million people subsist on less than $1.90 daily, according to world poverty clock and Brookings institute, the atmosphere reeks of a poignant smell of entitlement. Not only have the people developed a staggering sense of entitlement, they have, as a result, become utterly insouciant, expecting the government to do everything.
In the year 2014, in Aboti- a remote village in the outskirt of Erunmu, Osun -a community of about a hundred people shrunk in population, within a period of eight months, to an exiguous thirty, in the wake of a deadly cholera outbreak. A torrential flooding had washed off human feces from the bush into a nearby community stream. Prior to the outbreak, someone had suggested that they build a modern toilet, but they declined, citing their poverty as excuse. They insisted they would wait on government’s aid.
Finally, growth hinges on quality human capital. Which is why a nation serious about its development would wage war on poverty at all cost, by any means necessary.