“Many speak the truth when they say that they despise riches, but they mean the riches possessed by other men.”
– Charles Caleb Colton
Sometimes I walk by the most beautiful malls and shopping centers in the Philippines, like Greenbelt, SM Aura, Bonifacio High Street, and several others. Everywhere I look there are rich people eating at restaurants where each dish costs more than a worker’s daily pay, dressed in the finest clothes that costs more than an average employee’s monthly salary, and buying gadgets that would take most of us a few years to save up for.
On the other side of the city, a few miles from those areas of luxury are entire communities who can’t afford a decent lifestyle. According to ABS-CBN’s report on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)’s Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) last 2014, around one in every four Filipinos live in poverty. Without a good source of income, many are forced to scavenge dumpsters and trash cans for food, sleep in cardboard boxes every night, and are forced to beg for a few coins to survive.
While some children play in the streets wearing dirty rags on weekdays because their families can’t afford to send them to school (a key to moving up in society), the children of wealthy parents have everything handed to them on a silver platter: the latest toys and gadgets, nutritious food, the best education, and far more.
Sounds unfair, right?
In the news we hear about corrupt politicians stealing taxpayers’ hard-earned money and selfishly using it to buy luxuries, and there are those corrupt businesspeople abusing their workers and their clients to boost profit.
With the vast inequality of lifestyles led by the rich and the poor, those sayings about money being the root of all evil, and the news about corrupt politicians and businesspeople, you’d think rich people always abuse their power…
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for all of us, that’s not true.
The idea that “rich people are evil” is a complete and utter lie, and learning that is the key to helping the poor and eradicating poverty.
Riches from Evil Never Last
Certainly there are criminals like corrupt politicians and businesspeople who abuse their power, but they are eventually caught and rightfully punished. It’s been that way since ancient times: unethical rulers get deposed or even assassinated.
Businesspeople that cheat customers eventually lose clients and buyers so their businesses eventually fail.
Employees who cheat their employers by giving low-quality work even if they are paid well get laid off and receive bad referrals.
Thieves who steal wallets and gadgets instead of working to earn money rightfully stay poor all their lives and are punished for their crimes.
It may take a few decades, but evil always carries its own punishment. We always reap what we sow.
Rich and Poor, Haves and Have-Nots
Even if criminals who try to get money are punished, there are still a lot of good and hardworking people out there who work very hard, tiring themselves out in their jobs, yet STILL remain poor. Why should some people live lives in luxury and abundance, while the humble farmer, the jeepney driver, the street cleaner, and others like them live with far less?
If we keep thinking about the inequality between the lives of the rich and the poor, we forget one crucial question:
How did rich people earn their wealth?
Answer: By doing GREAT things and Creating GREAT Value!
Doctors heal sick people and save lives so they earn a lot of money.
Architects plan and design great buildings where we work and live and they also earn a lot of money.
Engineers use their knowledge of science and math to fix problems and improve things we use like buildings, airplanes, ships, bridges, and many others to earn a lot of money.
The businessperson who took out a loan to buy food processing equipment and hire a hundred workers to create and sell food that feeds millions of families earns a lot of money.
The other businessperson who took out a loan to buy materials and hire workers to build a shopping mall gives opportunities to hundreds of businesses that hire thousands of employees also earns a lot of money.
Each and every one of those I mentioned are rich.
Who did they harm? Who did they oppress? Nobody!
They did GREAT things and the wealth they earned is a REWARD for what they did. They can then use the money they EARNED to enjoy life to the fullest, by traveling, eating great food, buying and living in beautiful homes, and more. We reap what we sow.
People with a “poverty” mindset see that rich people have better stuff than they do and think it’s “unfair” or they’re being “oppressed.” They forget that most rich people ALL had to EARN their wealth. One reason why people with a poor mindset say “being rich is evil” is simply because they are jealous. That’s crab mentality in action: they would rather badmouth rich people and bring them down instead of working to be as successful as they are.
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong… You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer… You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.”
– Rev. William John Henry Boetcker
Rags to Riches
Sure, it’s easy to say that the doctor earns a lot of money… but we can’t afford medical school.
It’s easy to say that architects and engineers earn a lot… but we can’t afford college.
It’s also easy to say that the businesspeople who create and sell food to millions or build homes and buildings earn a lot… but we can’t afford those loans and we don’t know how to do any of that.
It’s easy to say that the wealthy had all sorts of advantages and opportunities the rest of us don’t have and that it’s unfair, but we’re forgetting ANOTHER important question…
How did they start?
*Poof!* In a puff of smoke you’re now suddenly the owner of a multi-trillion-dollar business empire that manufactures and sells premium medical equipment all over the world! …no, that’s not how it works.
A janitor worked hard for years so his child can go to school. That child did her best in her studies until she graduated medical school and became a great and well-paid doctor.
A family of farmers also worked hard so their child can study and graduate college. Their child became a rich and skilled architect who designs hotels and condominiums.
A jeepney driver and a wet market peddler worked and saved money for decades so their child can go to college and get a degree in engineering. That child now designs and builds dams for power companies that provide electricity to entire cities.
A poor boy selling a basket of candles, soap, and thread every day at the market started a small shop. He expanded it every few years, hiring more people until he earns enough to buy food processing and packaging equipment, then he kept expanding until his factory can sell and distribute food all over the country.
A poor sari-sari store (a small convenience store) owner started and expanded his small business and started selling shoes. He then expanded again to sell clothes, food, and other goods, and kept expanding until he built gigantic shopping malls all over the country.
EVERYONE started Poor
Check every single “rich kid” and every single wealthy family in the world. Check their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and their ancestors: They all started poor, like everyone else. It’s just that SOMEONE from their family started to work harder and smarter to building better and more valuable things in order to grow rich.
It’s not “unfair.” Again, they EARNED what they have and are enjoying the REWARDS they DESERVE. We all reap what we sow.
We can say that the world, the government, and everything else are biased against the poor and that there are too many difficulties to overcome… but we have to remember that there are thousands of people working hard, beating poverty, and earning great wealth DESPITE all those difficulties. They may have had to start small and work for years, but they still succeeded.
You can do that too.
Education, not Charity
Everyone, all families, communities, and countries, all started off poor. Our ancestors lived in forests, caves, and mud huts, yet with each generation we kept trying to do better until we got what we have today. Some did things better and faster than others and grew rich, while many, like most people living in the slums, simply haven’t started yet.
We don’t need to keep giving alms or change the laws of physics in order to end poverty. I believe that eliminating poverty is possible not through charity, but through education. Anyone, including the poor, can earn wealth by learning to do what rich people did, and there are infinite ways to do it. We just need to learn how.
We can never eliminate poverty by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That’s simply stealing from those who rightfully earned what they have, and giving it to those who don’t deserve it yet.
Forget the idea that the rich are somehow oppressing the poor. Forget the idea that we are somehow being oppressed by somebody else. If we want to move up in life, we need to start learning how to earn the kind of life we desire.
It’s never about the “Rich vs Poor” or “The Haves vs. The Have-Nots”…
It’s the “Earned and the Not-YET-Earned.”
Which one are you right now?
“Whatever reason you have for not being somebody, there’s somebody who had that same problem and overcame it.”
– Barbara Reynolds
Thinking that rich people take their money from poor people is wrong. Most rich people used to be poor, but they became rich because they created or did valuable things that people needed, and thus they got paid a lot for it. If you are not as successful or as rich as you like, then you need to learn and do what successful people did to have the same level of success that they have.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” then that’s the lesson here. The way to help the poor is by teaching them what they need to earn their own wealth, giving them the inspiration to pursue their dreams, and giving them the courage to ignore those who tell them that it’s impossible. (That, by the way, is why I started this blog.)
“The poor do not need charity; they need inspiration. Charity only sends them a loaf of bread to keep them alive in their wretchedness, or gives them an entertainment to make them forget for an hour or two; but inspiration will cause them to rise out of their misery. If you want to help the poor, demonstrate to them that they can become rich; prove it by getting rich yourself.” – Wallace D. Wattles