The voice of the poor

We all know the story of the fish that, after swimming for exhausting days, asked an old fish, “Where is the ocean? I only hear others talk about it, but I don’t know where it is.” The old fish replied, “It’s here, it’s what surrounds us and where we live.” “If that’s the case, why can’t I see it?” “Because it’s everywhere,” he answered politely. “It surrounds you. It’s in you and outside of you. We were born in the sea and we will die in it. Furthermore, you’re the ocean’s life. When you swim, you reveal its presence. It’s because it’s so close to you that it’s hard for you to understand. But don’t worry, it’s here.”

This tale came to my memory after a renown spiritual leader’s reflection sustaining that all religions on Earth have served the poor for thousands of years; but poverty keeps growing. And he asks himself, “What kind of service is that?”

He argues that, after thousands of years, poverty should have disappeared, but what religions do is to feed it. He says that a true service would be to tell the poor, “You are being exploited and you have to rebel against the created interests.”

The powerful donate money to keep preaching submission and the hope that there’s an afterlife, while they keep exploiting the poor.

He denounces that poverty is created by the social system, covered by the beautiful word “service”, which helps to hide an exploitative social structure.

The spiritual teacher goes on to say, “If you were interested in eradicating poverty, you would combat its roots. You only treat the symptoms. How are you going to help the poor by giving them food or clothes? What you will do is to keep them in subsistence so that the powerful can keep exploiting them.” I remember an atheist had written on the wall, “God is nowhere.” When his son started learning how to read, he had difficulties with the long word “nowhere,” so he read “God is now here.” The father said, “If I can’t prove God is nowhere, the prudent thing to do is to respect my son’s voice.”

The atheist and the theist are believers, but the agnostic only looks for the truth. Whether he finds it in the voice of an old fish or a child before the scandal of a Hindi spiritual teacher.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 06/14/2004