In the movie Wall Street
, the protagonist Bud Fox at some point declares: "There is no nobility in poverty anymore." Anymore? Was there
ever nobility in poverty? How was it this notion that there is nobility in poverty came about? Philosopher and linguist Martin Heidegger once
asserted: "In what other way, however, could a humanity ever find the way to the primal form of thinking, if the favor of being did not grant man
the nobility of poverty
by means of the open possibility of relating to being? For only that nobility of poverty conceals in the freedom of
which is the treasure of its essence."
In some ways, Heidegger is tapping into an ancient and long held mysticism - which is to say paradox - that only by giving up everything does one
obtain everything. From Buddha to Jesus, the ancient mystics laid a foundation that would become known as this "nobility of poverty". It is
arguable, however, that both the Buddha and Jesus Christ were much more concerned with well-being versus ill-being than they were wealth versus
poverty. Perhaps, from a Buddhist perspective, this notion of "nobility of poverty" is somehow conflated from Buddha's
Four Noble Truths
in which the Dukkha
commonly translated into meaning suffering, stress, anxiety, or dissatisfaction, the emphasis - at least in Western translations - being suffering.
However, according to the Buddhism Dukkha is something that is caused, and has a cure. The Dukkha is not a "noble truth" to be obtained, it is one
to be overcome.
What Buddhism advocates is non-attachment to materialism and instead seeking virtue. Of course, I suppose it is Siddhartha's early biography, where
he was born into royalty, "destined to be a prince", but ultimately eschewing this life for one of austerity after confronting the pain and
suffering of his subjects. This is a highly abridged version of Buddha's history, but this thread is not about Buddha, or even Buddhism, but is an
examination and brief analysis of poverty and its purported nobility.
In the New Testament, we have several references where Jesus speaks of the poor. In Luke 6:20-21 Jesus states: "'Blessed are you who are poor, for
yours is the kingdom of God." Earlier in that same Testament, 4: 16-19 Jesus is quoted as saying: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he
has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the
oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." In Mark 10:21-22 Jesus is quoted as saying "You lack one thing; go, sell what you
own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." There are several more references to the poor in
the New Testaments, but I offer these, ending with Mark 10:21-22 to emphasize that Jesus' concern was teaching people to give up material want and
seek a higher calling.
That higher calling was not poverty, and Jesus own relationship with Josephus suggests that Jesus had no problems with wealth or those who had it.
Indeed, Judas is labeled Jesus' treasurer which suggests that Jesus certainly understood the need for some sort of revenue. These ancient mystics,
and even the more modern mystics are far less concerned with economy than they are with the ethereal.
The reality regarding poverty is that it is devastating. Where the wealthy are far more likely to flourish and prosper than or the poor, the poor are
often confronted with the reality that it is better to survive than not to survive. The poor are thrust upon a battlefield that
would call the "death ground", but Greene offers this phrase to
suggest a strategy where people who have nothing to lose fight harder than those who do have something to lose. However, when considering the idea
that it is better to survive than to not survive and weighing that against Greene's death ground strategy, what all too often happens for the poor is
that in their immense struggle to just survive, once obtaining a level of survival, they all too easily find relief in this, somehow assuming they are
no longer on their death ground.
As long as one languishes away in poverty, they remain on their death ground, and while we all must at some point enter that inmost cave and lick our
wounds to prepare for the battles ahead, if we are poor, we must never surrender to the notion that this is simply our station in life and that our
death ground is different than those who are wealthy. Robert Kiyosaki
in his book Rich
Dad Poor Dad
suggest that most of us lack a financial intelligence, and that as employees, versus business people, we pay our taxes before we even
see the money we've earned but that a business person doesn't pay taxes until after their expenses have been paid. Regardless of the criticisms
leveled at Kiyosaki for his financial advice, these two points I've just highlighted are spot on!
The poor, often stay poor because they've failed to change their circumstance, and this is understandable given that the "nobility of poverty" and
the canard that "hard work is the key to prosperity" have been relentlessly shoved down their intellectual throats as if it is manna from heaven.
Working hard brings its own satisfaction, but if hard work does not bring prosperity, then it is time to revalue this concept of hard work.
There is no nobility in poverty and there never was. Conversely, there is no nobility in wealth, and there never was. Nobility has nothing to do
with it. Either one knows how to manifest wealth, or they don't. Figuring out how to manifest wealth is the key. The much vaunted middle class is
a product of a class war that none of us should be fighting. In order to have a middle class, then we necessarily must have an upper class and a
lower class. Why do we need classes at all? Buckminster
suggested that there are enough resources on this planet to make each and everyone of us a millionaire a million times over.
One of the most enduring resources on this planet is the human imagination and that indelible human spirit. Outside of our own spiritual ambitions, I
would like to make the argument that on this physical plane, we should forget about nobility and simply do what we must to flourish and prosper.