For this article… I want and need your feedback. (Helpful, serious, positive, resolving, but no snarck)
I’ve begun reading a challenging book, The Locust Effect, by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. I say it is challenging because it has startling reports and statistics about violence, poverty, injustices, and many stories of people facing awful, devastating trauma, and facing it daily. Reading it causes feelings of anger, and also despair, over the horrible elements of the human journey. I don’t want to feel sad, or disgusted, or angry, but neither do I want to be ignorant or oblivious to the issues dealt with in this book.
When I finish, I will let you know how it all looks at that point, but I want to address a couple of things while I am about two thirds through the book; things which have stood out from the first. One of the themes of this book goes against an idea commonly held. The common idea is that violence comes to a neighborhood, or a country, because of the awful poverty that is there. Poverty causes violence because of the anger of the victim. The theme of the authors is the opposite, that poverty comes to a neighborhood, or a country, because of violence. Violence comes in a variety of ways, but it comes, whether the one lone bully, or a much more complicated set of individuals whose world lacks the goodness and conscientiousness to make it a better world for others as well as for self.
Haugen and Boutros state that “endemic to being poor is a vulnerability to violence” Then, I have read enough, including some heartbreaking examples, to see that the authors are telling us that violence 1) causes poverty, 2) preys upon poverty, and 3) perpetuates poverty.
The book is mostly about violence and poverty in the “developing world”, but I hear the words that are often spoken about violence closer to home. I hear people say that this or that neighborhood in the United States has become violent due to the poverty found there. This never sounded quite right and I believe the message of this book explains why. What if it is the violence that comes first? Could it be the violence that is causing the businesses to suffer, sometimes leave the neighborhood, or to otherwise fail if they try to stay in the neighborhood? Could it be that people leave the neighborhood if they can afford to leave it, due to the violence, not due to the poverty. Living next door to a poor person doesn’t really seem to be a motivation to move, but living next door to a violent person does seem to be an obvious motivation.
People who can’t afford to leave a violent neighborhood must stay even though they may suffer violence. Some in this group choose violence because they see it as a road to power. This is not power with others that helps solve problems, but power over others to dominate. Others may choose violence because they believe it is the only way to survive. Either way, these choices are about the misuse of power; the same wrongdoing as held by the violent people who started the problem.
Another main theme of the book is about police and the justice system. The poor suffer more from police absence, or justice absence, than they do from police racism. (They do suffer from both.) In many countries the police are viewed as working only for the elite and the politically powerful. It stems from the old tradition of feudalism where the wealthiest fellow in the country-side hired his own army to keep the peace, so you had to be in his favor to be safe. It continued through colonialism where police and the courts were there to protect the colonial powers but not the indigenous peoples. The authors illustrate the plight of the poor in many countries. In certain parts of developing and established countries you will find businesses growing in the twenty-first century, but right alongside you will find the police and the justice systems operating in the fifteenth century. The businesses hire their own private police force. Everyday protection for the everyday poor person in these places is practically non-existent. The theme of The Locust Effect is that it is the violent, and not the poor, who want it that way.
So many questions come to my mind. I don’t know if the last portion of the book will deal with these or not. I do know I will be thinking of the questions more deliberately, thanks to this book.
- Is a poor person more likely to become a violent person than is a middle-class or well-to-do person? If so, is there a real cause and effect at work, or is it for other reasons?
- How do we explain the many people who move through poverty and never become violent?
- How do we explain the many people who come through poverty, and leave poverty, without ever becoming violent?
- Can we see violence, and the illegitimate power that goes with it, causing poverty in the United States today?
- Can we see violence preying upon poverty in this country?
- Can we see violence in the United States perpetuating poverty for the advantage of the violent people themselves?
- Are there lower levels of police protection, and justice system follow-through available for the poorer neighborhoods? Just what are “the numbers?” What do the numbers mean?
- What do we need to understand about the different levels of legal representation available for the different levels of socio-economic standing among people?
Will you share your thoughts?
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