It's Poverty, Stupid!
By Raphael Kutota Basisa, MBA
December 22, 2008
Recently, I attended a community meeting – the type of meeting that I routinely attend every week. Every week there is usually a person from variety of backgrounds to come in the front of the group and indoctrinate the group with their scholarship. This time, the presentation topic was entitled: “It's the Bullet, Stupid!” to mimic the slogan President Clinton had posted in the front of his White House office after winning the election in 1992 against President George Herbert Walker Bush.
In his presentation, the gentleman was expressing that it is not perhaps a conspiracy, but certainly the incompetence of our state's general assembly that passed laws to stem the criminals from obtaining firearms that are involved in the rampant crime problems that we are experiencing these days here in the State of North Carolina. But the mainstay of the presentation was “when you control the guns without controlling the bullets, you pretty much annulled the protection you would have provided”. In the State of North Carolina where I live, to purchase a firearm, one have to be registered with his nearest law enforcement authority whom will conduct a thorough criminal and mental sanity background before issuing the license to possess firearms. Without this license to own a firearm, it is practically impossible to purchase one. All retailers of firearms observe these licensing rules with the utmost stringent care. But there is a loop hole in this law, a negative factor that completely circumvent the good intentions of firearms merchants and renders a good law that the firearms control is by allowing anyone (with or without a license to own a firearm to purchase unlimited amount of bullets – the bullets are the ammunitions of firearms that are direly controlled).
Unlicensing the purchase of firearms ammunitions is the root cause for the criminal firearm usage responsible for the killing amongst the youth resulting from drug trade and other illegal activities. All of that because the criminals have very easy access to hundreds of thousands of firearms via the underground and black market of stolen and ill gotten firearms. Thus, an open and legal market for firearms ammunitions simply accentuates the accessibility and use by the criminals.
The opinion of our scholar here was to induce public critical mass that will induce pressure to the State of North Carolina Legislature to pass a new law to ban an open and legal sale of firearm ammunitions without proper license. The new licensing law should have the same restrictions, the same standard as that of the current and effective firearm control. The new law is to be called: “It's the bullet that is killin' us Act” of North Carolina 2009.
Our guest speaker went on to add that this new law should also include a mandatory obligation to all firearms owners to safely lock their guns at all times whenever it is not being used by utilizing certain specialty gunlocks. These gunlocks are built so strong that the only way to remove them is if you destroy the gun itself. So, under these measures, it will be only a matter of time before we begin to choke the supply side of the underground market and possibly completely curtail the ammunitions to the existing firearms in the market. We will be able, if not to eradicate firearm crime, but to curb it so severely.
This presentation was followed by over one and half hour of very heated debate whereas members of the audience overtook the side of the speaker and the other clearly stated that it is not the guns and the bullets that really kill, but it is rather the criminal behind the gun. Guns and bullets are pieces of soulless things; they cannot get up on their own to shoot someone. The criminals are the soul behind the guns and the bullets; they should be the ones that be the object of restriction by providing them with the needed social and economic assistance such as job training, education, religion, availability of employment, respect of the law and other people's properties, check on their mental health, substance abuse counseling, etc…
There are two lessons to draw from this story. The first one is that when people emotionally immerse themselves into an issue; they often do so by taking far extreme stiff positions. For that reason, one of my college professors once said: “Numbers don't lie” to mean that because numbers follow certain logic, they have no room for emotions. So, every time emotions overlook logic (reason), situations similar to this scenario become very likely. The second lesson to draw from this story is that things are not always as simple as they appear at first glance. No human being in right state of mind welcomes crime, but here this proposal to curb criminal activity in our communities was seriously coming under attack by opposing views that it is not just the guns – but the state and circumstances of the living person behind it.
While both camps were taking extreme positions, my opinion was simply in the middle of them. I believed that to lessen our state's criminal trend, we should implement the recommendations that both sides were pushing forth. But when my turn came to ask a question, I stood up to make a comment and I said “out of all of these, poverty should be the enemy” . I was expressing as a defense that just like firearms, drugs like cocaine, and sex trade as we observed earlier, they are dangerous in the hands of poor folks than they are in the hands folks in more or less elevated economic conditions. That was because back in 2006, I attended an eleven-week citizen program at Charlotte Police Academy . There I had become familiar with our local police crime statistics. These statistics clearly show that most users of the drug cocaine are the well educated, employed, economically affluent suburban who rarely involve themselves in criminal activities. The same thing for gun ownership; most guns are owned by economically well to do citizens of our society and those guns rarely get involved in the criminal underworld we are speaking of here. Additionally to the use of cocaine drug and gun ownership, the users of the sex trade (prostitution, pornography, and the such) are likely to be the well educated, employed, and economically affluent members of our society. But the criminal portion of the sex trade we often see on our six o'clock news involves the undereducated and economically deprived pimps and the other underground criminal element involved in the kidnapping, the transportation and holding of young women against their will and not the johns. I believe that we can go on into to define several more examples to illustrate that it is just not the subject (gun, drugs, sex trade…) that is often the problem, but also as well the status of the character of the individual behind the subject.
In conclusion I put forth that given the resources, we should invest in factors that contribute to lifting people out poverty to heal the ills of our society – in my opinion that is where we will be able to get “the biggest bang for our buck”. As I was standing up and making this statement, I could not but to notice a gentleman seating on the same row but on the column 10 to 12 feet away beside where I was seating swaying his head back and forth as if he was disagreeing with what I was talking about. After I finished talking and sat down he looked at me and to me “Poverty” and gesture his index finger tapping his forehead to signal to me that “Poverty is only a mental state – Poverty was not real, it is only an illusion”. I just smiled at him and turned back my attention to the next person that stood up to ask the speaker a question. I seriously wanted to rebuttal; he left the room before the meeting was over.
What I really wanted to say to him; if Poverty is an illusion, then the whole notion of economics is simply a superstition. But I know for sure economics is far from that. Though, being poor predisposes a person to have a certain psychological inadequacy (consequential) as we will discuss in the coming paragraphs, but poverty itself is real economic circumstance and real people are affected by it.
Poverty is a minimum level of income below which a person is considered not to have adequate basic necessity material goods for normal and descent survival. In addition to the poverty as monetary and material state, there is a psychological and emotional element that goes along with it. This element is not what is causing poverty, but it is what results from it. So, by investing resources for curtailing it, will result in significant eradication of subsequent underlying negative consequences.
Professor Abraham Maslow, in the 1950's performed a lot of work proving that psychological effects of poverty are real. Maslow theory is a five level pyramid. Each level of the pyramid signifies the economic level within which one person lives. The bottom of the pyramid is the first level and identifies the lowest economic level. The top of the pyramid describes the highest economic level. Between the bottom and the top levels are three intermediary levels that define emotional stages as one person ascends from poverty to higher economic affluence.
Maslow Pyramid by permission.
The main moral for this story is to evidence that whether it is in the developed countries or in the less developed ones; one major peril of capitalism is that it allows the affluent to utilize the poor as collateral damage in their pursuit of wealth or their enjoyment.
In the same line of thinking for the teaching of Professor Maslow, whether it is in the developed countries or in the less developed ones; the poor do not have the same mental capability as do the affluent by virtue of poverty itself. They cannot simply put to use of certain things without it resulting to extreme abuse or violence as we seen in the above examples.
Richard Branson, the tycoon of the Virgin Group once stated in an interview that capitalism is not the perfect nor the best economic system there is. It is just one of the systems that we have which seem to have worked so far. One hazard of capitalism is that it creates a class of very few individuals that siphons wealth from every body else at their favor. But to keep things in balance, these few individuals must moral responsibility not misuse their financial power and to equitably redistribute their gotten wealth.
But unfortunately for all the good advice, the reality on the ground will tell a different story.
For those who have had the opportunity to watch the movie “Blood Diamonds” a film modeled after a true story stared by Leo DeCaprio, you perhaps had the chance to peek at one of the example of the poor countries carrying the burden of the opulent lives of the rich of the developed countries. Similarly our earlier story about gun violence in the United States on how the poor killed and massacred one another, Blood Diamonds is a good illustration that the same scenarios are affecting the poor of the developing countries.
In the recent years in Japan and China, new laws have allow the substitution of the heavy metal Lead (because of its human health toxicity and other environmental hazards) and Gold (because of its rarity and high cost) in the manufacture of electronic circuit board by another more effective metal: Tin. These circuit boards are what we all know as components for electronic gadgets you and I use daily such as cellular telephones, Television sets, Computers, electronic toys and appliances, etc…As a result, suddenly, Tin has become the most precious metal in the London Stock Exchange. Tin is produced by processing a Tin mineral – a Tin ore which chemical name is Tin oxide that is technically called Cassiterite (also know as Coltan). Cassiterite (aka Coltan) is only found in very few places around the world; notably a small quantity in Australia and perhaps Thailand as well but the largest quantity is found in the far remote mountainous region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Central Africa) near the Congolese boundaries with Uganda , Rwanda , and Burundi .
At the all time high price on trading boards around the world, the demand for Tin has resurrected profiteers to increase the supply or to locate new supply source for this metal. By profiteers we mean some multinational mining corporations or wealthy individuals endowed with large sums of capital to orchestrate the necessary mining operation, storage, exportation, trading to quench the demand source points of the rich world.
Here in the west, the purchase and the use of electronics is peaceful and distanced from the violent side of it that has been causing the death and the destruction in the poor world. The difference between the peaceful use in the developed countries and the serious human right violation, all kinds of terrible atrocities, and destructions down the supply chain for those same electronics that we can't live without.
Economist Paul Collier in his book the bottom Billions conducted an essay to identify the root causes for the current Africa 's demise. He called them the four traps (natural resources, being landlocked, conflict, and poor governance/public policy). The first two elements are acts of God and no one can do anything about it. The last two factors are the manmade ones and are strongly interconnected – poor governance is a sub-entity and part of the conflict entity. Thus doing something about conflict we can improve on the overall state of affairs. Per Paul Collier, conflict happens under these circumstances:
Excessive dependency on foreign aid
Excessive dependency on a handful source of income for the entire country (minerals extract and ship overseas)
If the first two of these things are not the true representation of national poverty I do not know what else can be that. The last two points mirror the dynamic why rich in natural resource countries in Africa things are always in turbulence because the income/the funding from these such sources are easy to highjack and taken over by a foreign source orchestrated coup d'etat, homegrown military coups, invasion by neighbors (Uganda and Rwanda in Eastern Congo), …
This aspect has further solidied our earlier conclusion that poverty – whether personal (individual) or collective (national) is a thing to avoid at any cost.
© Congo Vision
“SOLVING THE CONUNDRUM AT THE HEART OF DARKNESS”
By Raphael Kutota Basisa , MBA
( January 5, 2009 )
During the early days of the Dry Season (May to July) of 1976, I was a sixteen year old high school student studying chemistry and Biology. With my parents and two other siblings we lived in Camp Bobozo; an Army base outside the city of Kananga in the province of Kasai Occidental deep inside the interior of the country now know as the Democratic Republic Of Congo in Central Africa (then Republic of Zaire). My father, a professional military officer of the Congolese Army, was ranked Captain and the second in command of the 7 th Infantry Battalion. Our family habit was to eat supper together at 6 p.m. when everyone in the entire family was probable to be off duty and seat with every one else around the table. But this night, father was absent – obviously was working late on some kind of military pressing issues. As we done it routinely over the years, after supper we've all gathered in the living room and tell stories and jokes until around 9 p.m. when we dispersed to go to bed.
I was already asleep around 11 p.m. when mother summed all of us back to the living room. As I walked to the living room, I noticed my father still dressed in his military attire, his gray Beret laid on the coffee table and obviously seriously worried about something when my mother ask him to eat first. He replied that he had no appetite. We all sat quietly around the table and waited to hear what he had to say. He briefly cleared his throat and said: There is this rebel named “Kabila” who is causing trouble in the area surrounding a small town named “Moba” in the northern part of the mineral rich province of Katanga (then the province of Shaba ). Thus, the entire 7 th Infantry Battalion has been summoned to relocate in the city of Kalemie nearby. 7 th Infantry Battalion will be responsible for stemming and controlling the outburst Kabila's guerrilla attacks.
Being part of the military family, events such as these are not at all unusual. Over my life prior to my father retiring from the military in 1978, especially in a country constantly under turmoil such as the DR Congo since its independence in 1960, I can recall six different occasions when father and his troops had to be deployed, but only this one I was old enough to understand what was going on and impact that may have over the rest of my life.
One thing most military families do become aware of is that your loved one you see at every deployment, it may turn out to be the last time you see them. Because of this fact, military family members are among the very few civilians that become aware – are given true scoops for the deployment (the military intelligence). For them to be aware if their loved one happens not to come back, they will know that they gave their lives for true honorable cause.
That evening when we were summoned to hear about father's deployment, it was the first time ever I heard the name “Kabila”. Back during those days, only a handful of people in Congo or around the world knew who this men was except may be for the folks who were at age in the early years of Congo's independence since 1960 or those who were well educated and read the memoires of Che Guevara.
Moba is a small town along the great lake of Tanganyika on the Congolese side. Moba was directly across a more or less sizeable city of Kigoma on the Tanzania 's shore of the lake. It was said to us – insider military top secret that rebel Kabila was a resident of Kigoma. He and his men will cross over from Kigoma to Moba under the cover of the night by dugout canoes and surprise attack the few guard at the gold mines in the surrounding the area.
Laurent Desire Kabila himself, as rebel kept his movement alive from the 1960's to 1997 by illegally plundering the mineral riches of the D R Congo. By this virtue, we would assert that the late president Kabila was experience and possessed serious business contacts as far as underground markets and financing of illegal mining such that of Rwanda and Uganda is currently involved in the Congo at the expense of the Congolese treasury and the Congolese lives.
The 1976 deployment of my father and his 7 th Infantry Battalion to Kalemie was mainly caused by the fact that this time rebel Kabila and his men had blockade and taken control of the entire town of Moba and its surrounding. They had held the small local Army force abbey to barricade a gold mineral rich area of approximately 100 square miles while protecting a serious unauthorized mining extract and ship operation behind them. This is the same “modis operandi” (mode of operation) that the Rwandese and Ugandese invaders of the Congo are currently applying as well to plunder the Congo 's mineral resources.
Since the first Rwandese attempt to overthrow Laurent Kabila in 2001, there has been numbers of believable rumors about retaliatory acts for unfulfilled mining contracts he signed in favor of some underground characters and under the shadow beneficiaries. These characters and beneficiaries were the financiers who put forth their funding to support the war that toppled Mobutu from his 32 year reign.
Mze Kabila (Kabila Father) as a rebel was an underground and under the shadow character himself, it is truly conceivable to all Congolese that the possibility that he entered into agreement to pay for the military action that freed the Congolese of their 32 year conundrum is an acceptable risk.
Why these contracts shouldn't be made to come to light and convert into Congo 's public official documents? 9 out of 10 Congolese in the U.S. Diaspora agree.
Enough Congolese lives have perished? Enough destruction for this country?
If the Congo 's minerals are what these forces of the darkness desire, please let OFFICIALLY allow them to draft what was agreed to them - the riches of the Congo are not soon to be depleted by anyone:
1482 – 1887: THE PORTUGUESE extorted and rampaged without impunity or penance. The Congo 's riches was being ravaged 200 YEARS BEFORE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DISCOVERED THE AMERICA'S.
1887 – 1902: THE BELGIAN KING LEOPOLD II AND HORDS OF EUROPEAN PROFITEERS PILLAGING, RAVAGING, AND BODILY PHYSICAL ABUSE WITHOUT REPARATION OR apology.
1902 – 1960: BELGIAN STATE MOST EXTENSIVE EXPLOITATION WITHOUT RECOMPENSE OR penitence.
1960 – 1968: WESTERNERS INDUCED CESSATION WARS AND DELIBARATE DESTRUCTION WITHOUT RECONSTRUCTION OR expiation NOR SORROW.
1965-1997: WESTERNER COLD-WAR FAVORITE MOBUTU SESE SEKO'S MISMANAGEMENT, DISTRUCTION OF THE ARMED FORCES, AND BANRUPTING THE COUNTRY WITHOUT REPRESENTATION OR REMORSE.
1997 – PRESENT: THE CONSORTIUM OF RWANDESE/UGANDESE AND THEIR WESTERNER'S NEWFOUND FREINDS OCCUPATION, PLUNDERING, AND DESTABILIZING WITHOUT REIMBURSEMENT OR AMENDS.
PRESENT – ONWARD: WHO WILL BE NEXT? HOW LONG WILL THE CONGO CONTINUE TO BE MOLESTED? WHEN ARE WE GOING TO HEAL? WHEN ARE WE GOING TO REBUILD? DOES THE CONGOLESE ANY BETTER?
THE SAD THING IS WE DID NOT EVEN ACCOUNT FOR THE ADDED TOLL FOR AIDS (THE SYNDROME RESULTING FROM THE HIV VIRUS), MALARIA, AND THE MANY OTHER AILMENTS RAMPAGING LIVES IN OUR SOCIETY.
© Congo Vision