Glimpses : Population control: a cop-out
By Jose Ma. Montelibano
Posted date: May 16, 2008
I do not know the scientific basis for the conventional conclusion that population is a cause of poverty. I can accept that a certain level of population can aggravate poverty, but to aggravate is not to cause but rather to make worse what is already there.
What nation had no poverty but engendered poverty because its population grew to objectionable levels? Until the past 50 or so years, population was never imagined to be the cause of poverty. Yet, poverty has been a traditional state of many people throughout recorded history. When there was no population issue connected with poverty, who or what caused poverty?
It is a fact that I have strong Catholic influences working in my life and these are merged in the way I process my decisions. But it is not my being Catholic that upsets me when birth control is offered, or pushed subtly or aggressively, as a solution to poverty. The only solution to poverty is the opposite of what creates it. If the cause of poverty is removed, then poverty will disappear. If the opposite of what causes poverty is interjected into a situation of poverty, then poverty will disappear much faster.
I cannot see for the life of me why so simple an equation can be missed—unless it is being deliberately sidestepped or covered up. Those who would like to push population control as a poverty-solving mechanism must have more important agenda than what they claim. And in all likelihood, the initiative for population control comes from developed nations or from their agents in impoverished countries which are the prime targets of population control.
History is taught in schools. In the same history books are gaping evidence pointing unerringly to those who cause poverty. Yet, history is taught as history, something to memorize but not something to learn from. I have always wondered if the more meaningful insights of lessons learned are deliberately hidden from mass view, as if the authorities funding the effort to teach history as a subject would like to limit, or to distort, the more inconvenient of truths. It is not uncommon that the history books of conquered peoples are written from the point of view of their conquerors.
In the specific case of the Filipino, events that happened 110 years ago became available for public consumption only with the advent of modern technology and the lapse of embargo conditions covering documents related to that period. By then, most Filipinos had no urgent sense of returning to a period they had been conditioned to disregard for more pressing daily concerns. The end result is that a brutalized people, characterized by an American general's order to kill everyone above 10 years old, actually feel so grateful that America continued the colonization that Spain began.
I point out the impact of effective propaganda, the epitome of which is its capacity to generate gratitude from a victim for being abused. That they did it to cover a crime of one people against another is not my immediate concern in this article. What I wish to point out is that the false can be made to appear true, and to appear true long enough that history, in fact, can testify to its veracity. Conditioning the way people think, if they have been impoverished or enslaved long enough, is not difficult. And when the very societal leaders of the victimized people betray their own by cooperating in deforming a collective mindset, all defenses are crippled.
The Catholic Church fights attempts at population control using artificial means. With the belief that human life is sacred, any attempt to deny its emergence or kill its presence becomes a major no-no. Artificial birth control, therefore, is considered as anti-life as abortion. Many will not see it that way, and many do not. Many can more readily connect abortion to murder but cannot see the use of condoms the same way. However, it is not the theology of the Catholic Church that I wish to defend or question. It is the attempt of the most insidious forces to lay the blame for poverty on the victims instead of on the perpetrators.
Poverty is present in many levels, from local to global. In many of these cases, population has obviously nothing to do with it. In some, it is intimately connected to natural conditions like extreme and extended drought; in others, by aridity of the land which denies productivity. In most cases, though, it is entirely man-made. Even people from areas that are adversely affected by climate or land conditions can be easily helped by those who are not. Poverty is born from exploitation and later aggravated by sheer apathy toward the suffering of others. To repeat, poverty is not caused by population but by exploitation. This must be our only understanding of poverty, this must be the mantra of all those who wish to eliminate poverty.
In another forum, I can make my stand on the sanctity of life from my own understanding and from insights derived from experience, observation and reflection. I cannot discuss from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church because I simply have had no interaction with experts there. And, truth to tell, my own convictions which have evolved throughout my life ground me firmly enough to stay my course yet respect the contrasting opinions of others.
Population control is being diverted to the level of religion because divergent or opposing views justify secular or state actions and policies. Using the dictum of the separation of the church and the state, national or local governments promote their policies on population control and often effectively sideline religious opposition. But when the issue of poverty is predicated on social justice, when the guilty cannot escape accountability by blaming victims for their inherited suffering, even the sanctity of life can be defended in the most secular of ways.
In gist, people who have impoverished Filipinos cannot get away with just giving us condoms to address the poverty they themselves have helped to cause. They must accept their accountability and compensate us accordingly. As much as they exploited us in the past, they can extend concern, resources and technology to reverse and terminate a horrible historical anomaly. At the very least, they cannot extend that exploitation and aggravate the perversion by blaming the poor for their poverty. At the very least, our leaders must not allow them to do so.
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