A criticism of the phrase "Poverty is a state of mind"

in #blog11 months ago (edited)

They say that poverty is in the mind. I interpreted this at first as a spiritual statement, as if you could only be poor if you believed yourself to be. People poor in spirit, not generous, or simply not curious, who simply lived in inertia not wanting to improve. I thought that’s what the saying referred to, years ago.

Then as money became scarce for everyone around me, but I stayed afloat, I reinterpreted it as if it referred to the creativity that allows you to seek new ways to make money so as not to be poor, making poverty a decision or a lack of insight.

However, it took me long to realize that this saying is just decorated nonsense. There are clearly geographical economic divides. People in Venezuela are clearly going hungrier than before, and pretending that it’s their choice not to seek personal solutions is to encourage an illusion that, while it does not harm everyone, creates false expectations. I’ve met many people with the right exploratory enterpreneur mindset, but they don’t have the tools, way beyond matters of thought, to advance to a new economic level.

I know two couples of developers, both married. Both men make websites, one woman designs booklets and the other one is a marketing expert. All have more than five to ten years of experience. Yet they live trying to make ends meet, no savings beyond a couple hundred dollars. Both couples decided to leave the country, as most of my acquaintances, friends and family have.

So when more than 20% of the population of my country actually leaves the country to seek better economic situations, and when more than half of those who stay would leave if they had the means, it’s easy to observe that poverty, more than an illusion, or a decision, or a lack of intelligence, is a simple socioeconomic phenomenon that can affect any population given the right circumstances.

Most people wouldn’t choose to starve to death, yet there have been countless famines across history. I think that insinuating that poverty is only in the mind or the spirit is quite a disrespectful statement to all the victims of these catastrophes. Not that I would normally care about what people say about others, but when it affects our decision-making, we must take false statements such as this a bit seriously such as not to hamper our decision-making.

I wonder how this mindset became so common. I assume that it's a rationalisation of privilege as merit. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not against privilege, but I think it's a bit silly to believe that, having been born in a comfortably "having" household, I used to think that I'd earned my place, not having worked much more than a year in my life (and having already spent all that money years ago).


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Hi there. I loved this post. I think it comes how to how the rich get richer the poorer get poorer. The more you change the poverty mindset to a mindset of abundance, anyone can be rich.

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That's the point I'm trying to argue against. I know plenty of poor people with mindsets of abudance. They simply don't have the resources to push forward. And if it were a matter of mindset, famines would not occur, as you would be hard-pressed to prove that everyone simply gave up on their life, believing there was nothing they could do to solve their impending death. I would believe instead that many people in famines believed that they could find a solution, but did not. True, there would be hopeless people, but taking only those into account would be a terrible fallacy.

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It's funny because I just saw a pretty interesting video with that phrase (

) and thought maybe your post was related to it, and in fact it is, in the video this mindset is discussed.

I agree with you, it's not a lack of intelligence but tools to advance to a new economic level because it is a socioeconomic phenomenon, just as you said. I've been really poor in some stages of my life and I was always thinking of ways to get money because "it's out there and you just have to reach it!", and though I had many ideas I just couldn't make them true because I didn't have and couldn't get the tools I needed. I think the level of poverty may determine how much you can do to change that, like how much of the tools that I need I can get. This is something that sadly many people don't understand and should to be thought.

I'm glad I found someone writing about it. Nice post! :)

Hey! Cool video. He strays a bit from the topic sometimes but always manages to come back. I think that what he talks about is exactly what I was referring to. Rich people are a very, very small percentage of the population, and if just having the right mindset were the key to getting rich, the gap would be smaller. Yet rich people are always encouraging people to follow in their steps, as if their path to wealth were easily reproducible.

Thanks for sharing the video. :)

Something I've always found a bit funny to include in my analyses is that education is one of the resources people have or don't have access to. So if someone is uneducated due to an unprivileged social position, they'll never have the "right ideas" or opportunities, so it could be considered as a simple matter of fate, choosing your place in life.

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Well that's quite a jump from what I said. :P I just said not everyone can be rich however much they dream about it.

Not everybody can be rich, but we can still try to help people out of the poverty level. 🙏

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I also grew up in a 'having' household, as an only child who's parents were highschool sweethearts who were married for 7 years before even planning to have me, basically they were well established when I came into the world.

I have great work ethic, never worked a job 'flipping burgers' so to speak (not saying McDonalds is a bad thing either) and my resume is very professional and I have a range of experiance under my belt.

Yet, with all this being said, I found out in 2017 that no matter what, no matter who you are or what you have, in an instant and literally overnight it can all be taken away.

No one is immune to homelessness.

Spent over a year sleeping in a tent every night, and even though I now have a roof over my head - I never quite got back on my feet and I can't say at this point if I ever will.


Just wanted to share..

That's terrible, and I may be heading there as well if things don't go as planned. I'm standing over a very weak foundation. My house is breaking down, my country is breaking down, I have $1500 in savings and I can't find a job lol. The minute I need to get out of my house, I have 2 or 3 months before I can't even afford a meal. So in a few months, I wouldn't call it completely unexpected to be in a very similar situation to what you described. I'm working to fix that, though, but nothing is certain, as you say.

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