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Let Us Solve The Poverty Problem

February 7, 2015

I always advocate “Education” as the solution to poverty even though I seriously do not know how or why it works in its very details.  To me, it’s like a magic wand that works wonder.

I listen (and usually enjoy listening) to commencement talks two or three times a year because as a faculty member myself, I have to attend convocation/commencement a few times a year.  I never got tired of listening to these “yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah”, because everyone is carefully scripted and contained life lessons especially for fresh graduates which I usually found also applied to me.  Today I read (instead of watching the YouTube video available) a commencement talk by the famous New York Times columnist David Wallace.  He was very humorous, his talk contained a part on how a graduate who notice neighbourhood poverty sees generations of people who never graduated with a high school degree.  And should think about how fortunate he is that he has a degree but also be compassionate enough to see how he can play a part in helping that some family break that cycle.

In some sense that vision to break the cycle is very similar to Mahayana Buddhist who clearly sees suffering in sentient beings and have a huge compassion to helped those poor beings become awakened to break the “cycle”.

I cannot help but started looking at myself growing up in a poor family who may have no problem getting three meals a day but everyone in the family struggled and did not own a high school degree.  Most of the children of these uncles and aunts of my extended large family did not get a high school degree (with the exception of several out of about 50).  But the truth is:  today, I got a PhD and I got less then most of these 50 relatives.  So when I looked at my situation from Wallace’s point of view, I’ve got to see it a little differently.  Some earned the same as me, but have to do it by working more than 10 hours a day for six/seven days a week.  I always say I work 24/7, but that’s less than 24 hours a week and 7 months a year!  With plenty of time for dinner with my family every day and one day a week (not counting Saturday and Sunday) not working.  Some of these no high school relations are rich millionaires, but they are usually loaded with constant worries and stress and are on this rat race in Singapore, they don’t spend enough time to spiritually enrich their lives.

The famous quote of Brayn Stevenson, is also echoed by Bill Moyers Jouranl of PBS:

The opposite of poverty is not wealth

has a lot of truth in it.  It is through this kind of wisdom that I also say “Education is key” to almost most of the societal problems.  If Ridwan Kamil wants to transform his city with his architectural vision, builidng many “TAMAN, taman” and cleaning the riers with threats of heavy fine is not enough.  Singapore has its success because it invested a lot of its country’s education.  But education is not just mere “degree”, it should be gauged by how one’s mind is educated with “exposure to the outside reality to solve problem” as the ultimate test, not just a report card or a diploma or a certificate.


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