Eyewitness: Measuring when…

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…t’ing really baad

Was a time when you poor, you poor. And since the Bible said “the poor will always be with us”, we accepted our lot and struggled to keep our heads above the (dirty) water. For us in Guyana – a land of former slaves, Indentured servants and Indigenous Peoples – we all started out dirt poor. But, as time went on, some were able to climb out and up from the mud. But they developed airs about the poor, who were now not only grubbing for a living, but were looked down upon by their own countrymen!! Some of the nouveau rich even outdid the white man – who was supposed to’ve squeezed us dry like sucked oranges!

Oh…the indignity of it all! Stepped on by your own! Anyhow, with us getting Independence and kicking the white man out (at least that’s what we were told), we’d now be in control of our country’s riches, and everyone would share in the same and become stinking rich. The small man would become the REAL man!! Sounded good! Well, here we are, sixty years down the line and we’re still wallowing in poverty! How do we know that? Well, starting in the fifties, various and sundry organs of the UN system started measuring how its various member countries were doing about improving the lives of their citizens.

And that, of course, meant what they were doing about poverty. They started out with GDP – valuing everything each country produced – and dividing that by the number of people in the country. That gave us the Per Capita GDP…which obviously was an average that covered many sins – such as there could be a small bunch of stinking rich folks on top of a mass of poverty-stricken plebes.

The UNDP then came up with a new, more nuanced measurement, called the HDI – the Human Development Index. This combined an education index and a life expectancy index with the per capita GDP.

Well, that still hid several sins, and of recent, the UNDP and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) have developed a “Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to give a more granular measurement of poverty. Now, the goal of all these measurements is supposedly to help policy makers in each country to hone in more specifically on the most poverty-stricken groups. And guess what? For Guyana, starting in the fifties, that group has consistently been our Indigenous Peoples in our interior!

So what about all the national and international efforts – such as Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals – to eradicate poverty in our most vulnerable group?

The PPP just have to keep focused on this vulnerable group in their development goals.

…we’ll all be equal

The problem with this goal called “equality”, that we’re all driven to achieve, is that we’re not born in any way equal…in skills, in intelligence, in strength, in looks, or whatever metric we may choose. Somewhere along the line, some European “Enlightenment” philosophers proposed that we’re all “equally human”, and that has kept us striving to achieve that goal. Trouble was, those same philosophers believed in the inherent inequality of “races” they created – which they arbitrarily defined on a descending scale, with Whites at the top and Blacks at the bottom.

And left us struggling with that ridiculous situation of assuming that just because of the colour of one’s skin or texture of one’s hair, one could be “superior” or “inferior”! Now, if they’d picked any one of the things mankind did, and chose to measure superiority or inferiority based on how well folks performed them, there wouldn’t be any problem, would there?
Well, maybe not. But at least we’d know our placement wasn’t arbitrary!!

…the PNC will be back

Your Eyewitness misses the PNC. They used to provide much grist for his mill that must turn out something daily. With them seemingly comatose, is there need for the Big Guy to raise them?