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III. Poverty: Capture of Artemis’ hind

Myth and Introduction

As the legend has it, there was a beautiful and elusive hind with a golden coat and golden horns. She was sacred to the goddess Artemis and ran unfettered and free on the Arcadian mountain of Ceryneia. King Eurystheus ordered Hercules to find this deer and bring her back alive to him at Mycenae. Hercules spent every waking day for a year in a relentless, far-reaching pursuit. He chased the hind as far north as the Land of the Hyperboreans and to Mount Artemisium where she tried to reach Artemis. When the hind finally slowed down, high on the slopes of the mountain, Hercules shot her through the fleshy part of her legs to keep her from running away. He casually tossed her over his shoulders and was heading back to Mycenae when he encountered an indignant Artemis. Hercules quickly explained the whole story of his labors, how it had all started with Hera, and that he was following the orders of Eurystheus. The goddess took stock of the situation and allowed him to proceed under the condition that after Eurystheus saw the animal, Hercules would bring it back to the forest and release it. He agreed, and thus was able to accomplish his third labor. 

Poor man in Benares, India

The pursuit of the hind with the golden horns is symbolic of the pursuit of riches, not only of gold but of all the riches that make up one’s quality of life. Hercules was a solar deity and gold is associated with the sun, so this myth also represents his search for the potential that lay within oneself. Poverty is not only about the lack of money, but also about the lack of food, clothing, shelter, meaningful work, the consideration of others, education, opportunity, dignity, and self-respect. Most importantly, like the seemingly impossible labors of Hercules, it is about having the circumstances and resources available to transcend difficulties. The release by Artemis to Hercules of the hind with the golden horns also illustrates the point that in order to have a rich life one must also be willing to compromise. Knowing when to let go is as important to a rich life as perseverance.

For half the people in the world poverty is endemic and extreme, the result of economic, demographic, religious, and political conditions. In rich countries, by comparison, poverty is generally moderate and primarily confined to the lowest socio-economic group, to people with mental disabilities, and those with drug or alcohol-related problems. Ironically, even though the U.S is the richest of the top 20 developed countries, it has the highest percentage of children living in poverty. To a great extent this fact is closely connected with deplorable policies that sabotage family planning efforts, but it also has to do with the issues addressed throughout these labors, including the so-called “War on Drugs.” Because of regional differences around the world, the approach to poverty must be tailored to fit the circumstances.

The irony of the poster with dogs that reads “LOVE and PROTECT them” is not lost on this homeless couple living on the street in India

The high cost of housing and transportation in the United States, together with falling wages for the unskilled, functional illiteracy, unemployment, diminishing focus on self-sustaining family units, and a complex mix of other issues, means that more and more people will not make enough to maintain a certain standard of living and quality of life. Poverty in the U.S. is also closely tied with ethnicity, high immigration rates (both legal and illegal), homelessness, and failed neighborhoods that have turned into slums.
However someone living in a slum and considered poor in the U.S. might be considered well off in much of the world. Forty-six percent of the 37 million families defined as “poor” in the U.S. own their own home, which on average has three bedrooms, 1½ baths, and a garage. Three-quarters of poor households also own a car or truck, and 97% have a color TV. There is also wide variation within the U.S. related to affordable housing. Only 11% of those earning the median family income living around White Plains, NY could afford to buy a home, but in the Canton, Ohio area, 96.7% of those earning the medium family income could afford to buy a home.

Poor homeless woman in USA

Generally speaking, the poor in the rich countries are poor relative to those well off, while the poor in poor countries are really, truly poor.  Extreme poverty, as defined by the World Bank in 2008, includes those living under U.S. $1.25 dollar a day, and moderate poverty as those living on less than $2. In 2005, an estimated 1.4 billion people were surviving on $1.25 or less (down from 1.9 billion in 1981) and 2.6 billion lived on less than $2. This was an increase from 2.5 billion poor people in 1981. The Millennium Development Goal was to halve extreme poverty from its 1990 levels by 2015, but poverty is more pervasive and tenacious than previously thought. New data, taking into account the rise in food and fuel prices, the rising number of people being displaced because of conflict or persecution since 2005, the increase in hurricanes and other disasters, and the global financial crisis that began in late 2008, may show that many millions have fallen back into extreme poverty. Aid groups reported cutbacks from which it may take years to recover.





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