Amartya Sen on Poverty

Dharavi_Slum_in_MumbaiWhy do we tolerate poverty?

Aged 9 in 1943 during the Bengal Famine, Amartya Sen was allowed to give a small amount of rice to anyone who came to his door, and once to give a banana to an emaciated woman with a child. She peeled it and shoved it into her mouth, before pulling it out and giving it to her child, crying: “We are no longer human beings- our instincts are now worse than those of animals”. Extreme poverty robs us of normal human feelings. Why do we tolerate it?

Perhaps, ignorance. We do not know with sufficient clarity what poverty is like. India has a large middle class, 200m or perhaps 300m people, who have security and comfort even if they are not rich by Western standards. They dominate the priorities of the Indian media, crowding out ugly facts about poverty. Limited health care and schooling keep people in poverty.The caste system has some effect, but in Kerala where it was particularly severe, there was also a social radical movement bringing health and education to the poor. It has climbed from a lowly position to near the top of per-capita GDP.

Tata, the iron and steel company, provides free healthcare, decent schooling, safe water and basic sanitation for its workers and their families, like the fatherly capitalists of the British industrial revolution. Increased human wellbeing and capability increase productivity.

File:Bombay14.jpgPerhaps, belief in the unremediability of poverty. “The poor we have always with us.” During British rule, the proportion of the population in poverty grew: GDP growth per capita was 0.01%. Since independence, GDP per head has multiplied by 5. Some argue for concentration on economic growth, ignoring the empirical evidence that education and health care cause growth, and that the relative least advantaged person derives little benefit from it in India. They need education they cannot afford to get the jobs the growth creates.

The Indian media rails against the government’s “fiscal irresponsibility” in introducing food subsidies, but the government spends far more on subsidies for the rich, including 1% on electricity and 1% on diesel and petroleum products, which benefit the middle classes.

Sen argues that democracies do not suffer famines: the majority, even if they do not starve, cannot abide them. Yet authoritarian China has been able to spend far more on education and health. In India, the media has failed to discuss this connection, so it gets little political attention.

Some human beings are incapable of sympathy for others. Some blame the victim: from its inception the English poor law had opponents. Sen quotes Adam Smith the conservative’s friend: How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.

Hear Sen here.

Jesus, learning

iconJesus learns, and changes his mind:

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26 He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27 She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28 Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

This post, on Jesus learning, cites Luke 2:40-52. I am not sure of that: v40, The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him- the child was filled with wisdom, meaning either wisdom was poured into him, or he was filled from the start. When Jesus was 12, he was in the temple asking the teachers questions- but that could be Socratic rather than seeking information.

A commenter cited John 5:19-20. 19 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father[a] does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Is Jesus emptied out, just the vessel for the Father? Another cited the baptism of Jesus: Jesus was not God until after baptism. That made me wonder- is that some heresy or other?

We look back on these verses through 2000 years of history, including the Councils defining what was and was not orthodox belief. That leaves me with the phrase that “Jesus was wholly man, and wholly God”- a paradox from which I cannot reason.

Colouring the Map

World map beforeI get searches for trans issues from all over the world, and have clicks from 150 countries and territories. Hong Kong colours in only that tiny bit on the south coast of China, so I was fair pleased when I got a page view from mainland China, despite its internet restrictions. This got me looking at other white areas of the map. The ancient civilisation of Iran, an empire centuries before Rome’s! Greenland, with ice kilometres deep but its southern tip south of Shetland! Mongolia, land of nomadic herdsmen surviving winter at 40° below freezing!

Of course, having coloured Kazakhstan, I would like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and all those countries in Africa, File:Martinelli Sibilla persiana.jpgbut these three are a good start for my project. Some might call it narcissistic, but I have long ceased to worry about that.

My first strategy for getting the coveted page views is to visit blogs from these countries. I check out blogs of those who comment on mine, perhaps they will do the same. Less manipulative is to come straight out and ask for it. My last ditch attempt is this post, if nothing else works: will they check out a ping?

From Greenland: Sunlight Absorption on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Carolyn and Chris wasted a day in search and rescue mode for Mike and Lauren. Had they fallen down a crevasse? They have a fascinating story to blog about, and blog regularly.

The Fourth Continent has a different feel. I hadn’t heard the song Happy, which is catchy, but love the Nuuk people dancing to it in the video, showing off their threads. She seems a friendly and thoughtful person. Go and say hello, that is what blogging’s all about.

From Mongolia: I live in a ger down by the river. The picture could be Titan, moon of Saturn, but for the tent. It is a fascinating article on nomads, but I would like the personal stories he promises: he comes from Florida, and so his encounters with local people will introduce me, too.

After- Greenland and MongoliaFrom Iran: Persian Banoo. This is a graphic account of soldiers beating and kicking political prisoners. This is the moment where the trivia of my project meets the real world. Blogging can be political campaigning, not just a hobby chatting to folks. I did not leave a comment. Defending Iranian Democracy gives more context: ward 350 of Evin prison houses some of Iran’s most prominent political prisoners. It calls President Rouhani a terrorist: here is political polemic, which I cannot judge.

Middle East Revised has pictures by Jalal Sepehr, contrasting tradition and everyday life. It is owned by Ivana Peric, a Croatian journalist- no good for my Project but the pictures are beautiful. Other blogs are from America and Israel, full of the new Iranian seat on the UN Women’s Rights Commission. None of the other blogs are from Iran. Games like mine can only go so far.

In May 2016, I had views from Iran and Uzbekistan. I have 179 countries and territories, and Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are my largest uncoloured territories outside Africa:

geoviews Iran


Boldini- Madame Doyen“Surely, nothing shall hold her back.” Well, yes and no.

I had a compliance interview with the DWP. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, they could decide I owed them £10,000, cut my entitlement by £55 a week, not pay me anything for two months while they sorted my claim, and take money out of my bank account.

The worst of it was, these interviews happen after a public spirited citizen has called the anonymous information line. Not that many people know I am on the sick. I worried a Quaker, believing me capable of work from how I appear at Meeting, had reported me. This is paranoid, but believable enough to be worrying. I phoned the DWP, and they said HMRC had reported to them that I had capital. I haven’t, now, and did not have enough to affect my claim when I made it, but the “notional capital” rules might apply as I lived on savings for two years before claiming. I don’t think they do, but the Decision Maker might disagree.

I thought this morning that I am quite terrified. Mummy will be angry, and something Bad will happen. In that moment I was that child. I thought of other confrontations- have I told you of my final written warnings?- and it seems child-feelings came into play.

Elaine drove me down, we parked, had a cuppa and strolled round to the jobcentre. The displays have a primary school feel, with individual words printed on coloured A4, laminated and stuck on the wall. It helps to create an impression: Elaine admired my LK Bennett jaiket. As the woman explained at great length benefit rules I know well, I thought of interjecting but forebore. I would let her control the interview.

We did not get as far as notional capital. All she was assessing just then was actual capital. However, she is entitled to ask for evidence and withdraw entitlement if I do not give it, and she now has the evidence to consider notional capital if she wishes. I am not out of the woods quite yet. Elaine thought if someone had looked through the glass wall, they would have thought I was interviewing her, with the papers in front of me and that jacket; and the “statement” she wrote for me was poorly done, getting the figures wrong. Elaine thought I had taken control of the interview.

Up to a point, it is good to worry. I was prepared for more than actually happened, and for what might happen next. Beyond that point, it isn’t. I was terrified. I have been functioning a little less well than my current normal, anticipating it. I realise I am an adult, and that thought “Mummy will be angry” feels so terribly real but is not. “Nothing shall hold her back”- except perhaps herself. Mmm. I will think on this.

Video selfie

A video selfie. Because still selfies are so last year.

Also in the park I saw this pair of swans:

Swan couple 1 swan couple 2

Then the narrowboat. I might as well- but I have to take it quickly, with no time for thought for the framing. And, I can’t see how to frame it. Nice that the woman waved, though.


Two swans flew over the field and landed in the water. Again, I was in a panic trying to sort my camera for a shot: I missed it with my heart, as well as with my camera. That’s why I do not always take the camera.

Swan landingswan landing 2

Then there were the pair of geese:


Walking along the path, I thought, a butterfly landing among the flowers would be lovely. Should I wait a bit, in case? Nah, no chance of that. But then, it did.

butterfly 1butterfly 2butterfly 4butterfly 3

A fbfnd identified it as a peacock butterfly on borage.

Tolerating intolerance II

a-friend-of-order-1964(1)I do not tolerate the homophobe. He does not tolerate the gay person. How is our intolerance different?

The thing condemned is different. He condemns a natural expression of a human being which does no harm. I condemn his condemnation. He attacks others who do not harm him. I defend myself. Even if I were defending someone else from his intolerance, I would be condemning something harmful or useless.

the-big-family-1963(1)And yet, if I say, “he externalises evil, he attacks what he cannot bear in himself, he cannot correct his own life so he pretends to correct that of others”- that applies to me, too. Judge not that ye be not judged. Jesus did not lay down a set of arbitrary rules which would be enforced after death: Jesus described reality. He projects! I say, and find myself projecting, judged as I judge. There are better things to think about.

the-blank-signatureAnd, you persecute others. Should I not defend them?

I carry on a discussion with the tedious bore PS Pruett partly because I do not want to give him the last word. Maybe I should withdraw. He says, I was more interested in why Christians like yourself almost always (in my experience) react by condemning people like me rather than attempting to be inclusive and caring about our spiritual state like they do with others. Most of the “inclusive” Christians that I have dialoged with about this are quite theologically liberal and do not believe in hell, but they seem willing to make an exception in my case.

The idea of Hell is useful, not as a threat to non-conformists about suffering after death, but as an image of spiritual reality now.  He wants me to care about his spiritual state, as he claims to about the gay people he “loves”. I care that the truth is found, through dialogue. Jesus could be terribly, terribly rude.

And yet, bothering with all this can hurt me. I get myself all riled up, rather than proceeding with my own concerns. If it is a stage I am going through, of self-acceptance through rejection of homophobia, it is a stage I would like to pass.

Perfect in my Imperfection

I am perfect in my imperfection.

That wasp, flying/climbing up the Meeting House window is doing its thing. It is not happy or unhappy: it does that because it is the thing it does, the evolved response to particular circumstances. It will carry on until it falls, exhausted. It is not feeding, so it will exhaust its supply of chemical energy. If I am to help it, I must do so carefully: picking it up and putting it outside is not sufficient, I should put it where it may find a food source. I may do as I wish: putting it outside is enough, I do that because that is who I am; or I could use a smartphone to find how to help it feed; or ignore it completely.

When I was transitioning, I had experiences which I called cognitive dissonance, though I do not know if I use that term of art correctly. It felt as if the fact that I seemed to perceive something or believe it to be true was not evidence for or against its truth. The bottom fell out of my world, I was blown about having lost my bearings and my footing, I was terrified and after such experiences I became “depressed”, taking time off work to recover. I would gladly take pills to make that sensation go away, it stopped me functioning and any anti-depressant would be an improvement.

Now it seems I am like that, not knowing truth or falsehood, never being able to act in a way which is Good, or which fulfils my aims.

R. is not here. Is it something I said? That is a paranoid thought, but given the scope of our interaction over a couple of weeks recently, it is just credible enough to bother me- so I checked, and Liz said she is away visiting. The fear I have of driving her away is the same thing as the care I took in that interaction.

I sought Safety, and that means Stagnation. I stay in my house and do not go out, and even that is unsafe- do I feel up to going to the corner shop? There will be people there- and this is a disaster, a wilful act of self-destruction- and the best self-care I could do at the time. And- at the moment, all I have to do is buy food occasionally. Even washing and dressing is not essential.

This is Perfect. I can Know where I Am for the First Time. Possibly.

I wanted to minister, but my mind is too full. I could go out and ask Kelley to hear me- oh, that’s interesting, I recognise the possibility but do not get up. Then I speak, on Amos Oz curing fanaticism through humour and empathy, which may or may not be inspired ministry.

By the clock, the Meeting overruns by one minute. What? That’s not the Rules!
At that moment, I feel Loved. Perhaps I have never felt more Loved.

The Union Jack Club

If you go South over Westminster Bridge, and turn left- East, that is- you go down some steps to the South Bank walk: nice places to eat inexpensively, the National Theatre, Tate Modern, jugglers and buskers. I should not have walked ahead, and stopping, waiting, long before he caught up I should have gone back, to see what was going on. On those steps, my father had fallen, and someone had helped him up. He fell quite a bit, actually. I blamed him. I was embarrassed by it. He fell once in Edinburgh at night, after we had a meal or a concert or something together: a bloke saw us out the window of a wee restaurant and clapped and waved, thinking my father was ratarsed. A passer-by helped him up.

That weekend in London I had not quite realised that he wanted to see a particular exhibition, rather than some generic art gallery, so we saw the National Gallery permanent display- impressive, but not quite the same. He had not wanted the theatre, but I did, so booked that day. Brecht: not fun enough for a fun show, not serious enough (in my view) to be satisfyingly high brow, it was alright. God it’s been such a long slow goodbye- the next year, he could not have done it.

I wanted to look after him, and he wanted to look after me- that is, to be the big brother, making the decisions, the dominant one-
or to actually be looking after. We took the bus into Edinburgh last September, and we wanted to be looking after the other: I fussed officiously with his walking frame, and he paid my fare.

Oh! Perfection!

Little squabbles and little minor irritants and you could really get to care about them and alternatively you could push them into the background- on that bus trip, he stood before the bus had come to a stop, which pleased me, he was not so frail after all. Minor irritants and major irritants, and the major irritants matter

and I remember it all. Nothing need be denied.

I loved him, and he loved me.

How to cure a fanatic’re not the bullies. The “Gay” activists are the bullies.

My beautiful friend Pink introduced me to How to cure a fanatic, by Amos Oz. As there is only one fanatic I can cure, I offer this:

God created Heaven and Earth, and made humanity in God’s image: male and female created he us. In God’s image: we are loving, creative and powerful. We are beautiful. Since Creation, God has been tirelessly seeking to communicate with us, to bring us to our highest way of being. There are two principal ways in which God communicates with human beings in the 21st century: the person of his son our Lord Jesus Christ, in personal relationship; and through the words of the Bible.

I seek what is Right, the best way a human being can be, through relationship with God. In this, I continually fail: and God’s love lifts me up and enfolds me. God’s forgiveness cleanses me. I am perfect in my imperfection.

The atheist is also created in God’s image, but is unable to see the way in which God seeks to communicate with him. When they attempt moral argument, it is fatally flawed, because though they seek what is Good they reject the ways our Creator has given to find what is Good: His holy Word, in the Bible and the person of Christ. They are incapable of moral argument, knowledge or clarity. O God! Heal them! and female God created us, and that creation is beautiful in its complementarity. The man fits the woman as perfectly as two halves of a whole, physically and spiritually. Two people become one flesh. A penis is perfectly fitted for a vagina, and the male character for the female character: Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:21-33– what makes that submission and tender care beautiful is human Love, a reflection of the Love which is God.

“Gay” people distort and destroy that. In place of the fitting love and complementarity of male and female, they put lust for a disgusting physical action, the misuse of their own bodies. This blasphemes the body made in the image of God.

“Gay” activists seek to pervert marriage, the symbol of the Godly union of a man with a woman, to their demeaning lusts. They demand that everyone bows to their idol: they are not satisfied with living together and pursuing their abomination together, they demand that we call their sin “marriage” and we participate in their “weddings”. They sue Christians who refuse to serve their blasphemy.

We’re not the bullies. They are.

Friends, this is not what I believe. I have taken something which is ridiculous- surely, no-one can believe That??- and made of it something I could almost assent to. I see that someone could assert it, without being a wicked persecutor. Instead she is someone who acts from Love to benefit us all.