Saturday, September 01, 2007

I pondered too, in 2007

"I pondered...what effect poverty has on the mind?"~ Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own, 1928

I pondered too, in 2007.

The fact is that being poor will of course ensure that the body and brain is not nourished and healthy, it is not as charged and energized as it would be if it got the right kind and amount of nourishment. Beginning from this there are all kinds of fallouts. If there is poverty, there is deprivation. The deprivation is not of the body alone, not of the chemical transmitters not firing completely because of the lack of charging alone. This deprivation is not only in the scrawniness and non-development of the physical self and in the non-presentability of the physical appearance. Even if we try to dignify poverty, we cannot, and those who believe they can should know by this day of development( I don't say evolution here) that it is sheer bunkum. They are talking through their heads because they have already overflowed their mouths with useless verbiage. We should leave dignified poverty to the church mice of the olden days.

The body is deprived of nutrients, and so is the brain. It is also deprived of a suitable education that helps it develop. The education may or may not make a learned or able person, but it is not in the poor man’s hands to find out how capable he is. When he has to scrounge for survival, how full can his brain be of reason and rhyme? How can he even begin to think, when his life teeters on the brink. If he lives in dirt and squalor, in clutter and care, can he think beyond the clutter and does he even care?

The mind can be deprived in many ways. It can also be made poor if the physical comforts are there but it is still not allowed to develop and grow in the direction it wants. This was the case with women so many years ago, when they were considered incapable of learning and not allowed to learn beyond the household chores. The mind was refused growth. It was made poor. It became stunted, then withered, and then did not think beyond the sniffling of noses and the changing of bedcovers. This is again the effect of another kind of poverty on the mind, and it also leads to poverty of the mind.

Poverty makes you so acutely aware of a desire to somehow eke out an existence that survival is the only driving force-where then is the space to move beyond the physical into perhaps the metaphysical, or even the study of anything like physics at that! And when we forcibly create a poverty of the mind, as was once in the case of women and is to be found rampant in many societies even today (for we have not come such a long way, baby), we are again seeing its immobilizing effect.

Affluence, wealth, or even a modicum of economic well-being helps open many doors. One of the most important ones is that the person can move beyond mere survival and dream of other realities. He can dream of “a room of one’s own” and beyond, and satisfy the hunger of the soul because the hunger of the body is taken care of.

The effect of poverty on the mind is that it creates a poverty of the mind. The effect of affluence on the mind is that it at least opens the door to an affluence of the mind. The latter gives us a choice; the former binds us in a suffocating grip from which there is no escape.