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What is Poverty Essay

In “What is Poverty? ” Theodore Dalrymple argues that the poverty in England is not economic, it is moral and spiritual. In the text “The City by the Sea” by Shiva Naipaul discusses the poverty in Bombay and its economic and moral connections. Theodore Dalrymple also argues that the poverty his situation in England is worse than poverty in Third World countries. I agree with Dalrymple’s first thesis, but in Naipaul’s essay the life conditions are more miserable than England. That’s why if the economic conditions in the Third World are so bad, that will bring more moral poverty.

Therefore I disagree with Dalrymple’s second thesis. If one must compare countries, it shouldn’t be between England and Third World countries because they are not in a similar position. In his essay Dalrymple gives background information about poverty in England. He states that the poverty in England is not economic, it is spiritual and cultural. He supports his idea with an effective example that the rate of cigarette consumption among the poor. Higher consumption belongs to people from slums; they do not belong to rich part.

It shows that poor people in England has enough money to spend their money for a useless thing (40). So they have enough money to survive. With this example Dalrymple shows us that the poverty in England is not because of economy. They prefer to buy cigarettes rather than medicine. Another idea given by Dalrymple is about spiritual poverty in England and the results of being welfare state. He gives an example about heroin addict’s behavior towards the doctors. After an addict who is unconscious because of having overdose of heroin wakes up, he doesn’t show any appreciative behavior towards the doctors.

But these doctors and nurses care about him and try to save him without expecting anything in return (41). Giving this example of heroin addict, Dalrymple tries to explain cultural poverty in England and the emotional numbness in of the poor. He shows that even though that heroin addict doesn’t deserve this favor, because he is not thankful to people who saved his life. Moreover, Dalrymple gives another example of a girl who has no hope and is brought to the hospital because of deliberate overdose. She doesn’t want to live this life because she is fed up with her ex-boyfriend who beats her up.

Also she has three children from different boyfriends. All of these reasons take her to desperation. Although there are many people whose life conditions are worse than hers, people in India try to survive (42). These examples show that people in lower class in England don’t have any respect for the people who are trying to help. That’s why poverty in England is related to cultural behavior of the poor, so it is spiritual not economic. Other idea of Dalrymple which shows the poverty is not economic in England is about the poor’s irresponsibility and laziness.

He supports his idea giving the example of a theft. Dalrymple explains what he sees during walking from hospital to the prison. “There are seven or eight puddles of glass shattered into fragments lying in the gutter en route” (42). Despite government’s welfare state and facilities for poor people, some of them still ignore this help and try to find other ways for finding money. This is one of the evidences of cultural poverty in England. Dalrymple also tells about the litter on the streets and in the yards of the public housing.

The poor people in England don’t clean up their trash because they think that government will do it for them (42). They are lazy, irresponsible and expecting everything from the government. The poor in England don’t want to take a responsibility, so there is again cultural and moral poverty. In the second part of Dalrymple’s thesis, he supports that the poverty in England is worse than in Third World countries and there is less moral depravity in these countries like India. When we look at Shiva Naipaul’s essay “The City by the Sea”, Naipaul indicates in his thesis that people in Bombay denies their terrors.

To show the moral poverty in Bombay Naipaul describes the “garrulous” taxi driver who offers his young and educated cousin for prostitution. This taxi driver says “When life is hard, sahib, a man will do anything” (54). That shows the moral poverty in Bombay and how the desperate life conditions lead people to live like that. Another example of Naipaul is the people who work in The Mill Area (57). In Bombay thousands of people work in the textile industry. They work with cotton dust in humid areas. Because of such working condition, one in every six men develops tuberculosis.

They don’t have adequate medical care, but they work for many hours and they sleep in shifts. They work under so bad conditions but they earn so few rupees. Additionally, they are all immigrant workers from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerela, Mysore, Assam. These immigrant workers send money to their family to help them to survive. This example shows how people work and try to live and also help their family. These poor people try to survive not only for themselves, but also for their families. If we compare, poor people in England can’t even try to survive for themselves.

Despite Dalrymple’s second thesis, there are many similarities between moral poverty of England and India. He gives an example of the post office peon in Bombay. Naipaul sees this man in public holiday and he has no plan for the day. He is apathetic towards the world and his responsibilities. Moreover, in squatter colonies in India people don’t care about anything like the people who are living in English slums (Naipaul 59). This impassivity points out the moral poverty in England is also effective for India. Another similar example is about violence.

Like in England, beating wife and child is common in slums in Bombay. In squatter colonies drug and cheap liquor means that it is time for get rid of the stress by kicking wifes and children (Naipaul 59). Also the example reminds the example of young and hopeless girl in England. So, people in England and Bombay don’t care about their wifes and children because in Bombay they try to prostitute their cousins to earn money. To sup up, if we compare these ideas, after analyzing Dalrymple’s and Naipaul’s essays, Dalrymple’s idea in his thesis is not completely valid.

It is true that poverty in England is moral, cultural and spiritual, not ecomonic, but as seen with the help of effective examples of Naipaul, the life of poor people is not worse in England. In England there are moral degradations, but at least poor people in England have more chances to survive because of having higher economic standards. In India, things are different, they don’t have anything but they got hope. They hope without thinking that one day their life is going to be change.


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