Ethar Hamid, a 22 year old writer from Sterling, Virginia, USA is an existing ASLI artist who was featured in our last issue “Mental Illness, Health and Recovery“, follow the links to read more…
Writer Ethar Hamid finds inspiration in her mental illness and says “the issue of mental wellness is not one of being forever free from mental distress, but one of coping with and thriving despite of mental health issues”.
Now we speak to Ethar for our third issue “Capitalism, Poverty and War”, where Ethar speaks about being from the Sudan, Islam and Poverty and her two submissions of creative writing for this campaign:
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject for this campaign “Capitalism, poverty and war”?
I was motivated to use this topic largely because of my astonishment at what victims of war and poverty have to go through. It is some of the worst pain that any human can experience, without a doubt. The piece is actually about Sudan, my home country…it talks about the wars and poverty that have afflicted the country.
I was motivated to deal with this subject due to my dream for justice, human rights, and human dignity to be taken into consideration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though the creative writing piece focuses on the occupation of Palestine (which many people around the world recognize, though others say that it is not occupation), I am a supporter of the bigger picture of aid and support for Palestinians, in all areas that they struggle with (as a people).
I have gotten a clearer picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after watching the following video, a few years ago (my thankfulness is with the speaker for his courage and concern to speak out about the issue):
Also, this website has helped me get a clearer understanding of the topic, as well; http://www.ifamericansknew.org/
What are your present and future projects with your artistic discipline?
Currently, I’m working on a poetry chapbook (which is a short collection of poems). I will give it another year or so of working on it, and then I’ll send it off to a small press…Hopefully I’ll find a good home, for it (the publishing world can be so brutal, sometimes! Hopefully it’ll work out)…
In the future, I’d like to write an essay collection (maybe of around 30 essays. It might end up being a book-length project, depending on how long the essays will be). My subject for the collection might be my experiences with my mental disorder, but I’m not quite sure, yet. It might include other personal narratives, too, like my experiences as an immigrant to the U.S., and my experiences as a Muslim.
I’m actually a creative writing major (with a concentration in non-fiction writing), so I’m especially looking forward to my essay collection. I hope I can make it relatable to the many people who go through similar things.
In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world?
To me, capitalism is a corrupt and unjust economic system. It favours the capitalist class over the working class. An economic system should be implemented such that nobody is set up from the beginning to do worse than somebody else.
What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?
Capitalism only serves to further push back people who are born without the privileges had by others. It doesn’t help them out of the hole that they’re in—it keeps them living in their impossibly hard circumstances.
If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete? For example, to people with physical or mental disabilities?
That is an excellent point. People with these circumstances are often marginalized in capitalist societies. As a human race, we owe it to each other to take care of one another. We need to make sure that people who aren’t able to compete, whether due to disabilities, illnesses, or other hindrances are given good resources and care to live with dignity and happiness.
What are your views or suggestions on an alternative economic system?
I’m a Muslim, and I agree with (and revere) Islamic teachings concerning economics. Islamic values in regards to economics are based neither in the system of capitalism nor Marxism (which have both proven to be causes of economic inequity, and not solutions to them). Islamic economic laws comprise an alternative approach to economic practice.
A few points of the Islamic economic system include zakah and prohibition of interest.
In Islam, each person who owns wealth above a certain amount is required to give 2.5% of his/her wealth in zakah—obligatory alms, every year. “Zakah is payable at 2.5% of the wealth one possesses above the nisab. Nisab, which is equal to 3 ounces of gold, is the minimum amount of wealth one must have before they are liable to pay zakah. *As of May 18, 2015, nisab is estimated to be $3,599.56. Zakah is liable on gold, silver, cash, savings, investments, rent income, business merchandise and profits, shares, securities and bonds. Zakah is not paid on wealth used for debt repayment of living expenses such as clothing, food, housing, transportation, education, etc.” (http://irusa.org/zakah/ ).
I heard from lectures given by Islamic scholars that if zakah was implemented—if every person in the world gave 2.5% of his/her wealth to the needy, every year, poverty will be eradicated. For further information on this follow this link?: http://www.islamic-banking.com/islamic-economics.aspx
Also, the economic concept of interest is forbidden in Islamic law—both giving interest, and receiving it.
for more information please follow this link: http://www.islamic-banking.com/islamic-economics.aspx
Has capitalism affected you in any way in your life?
Capitalism has affected my life in that I feel terrible at the sights I see (for example; people living in poverty, throughout the world). Knowing about the negative sides of capitalism has made me more keen in hoping for a just economic (and therefore, social) system.
In your opinion – who benefits from poverty, and how?
The rich benefit from poverty.
But another answer is; no one benefits from poverty, because as long as one single person lives in such a condition as poverty, it taxes the souls of everyone else in the world (even deep down).
How do images/videos/news reports of people in poverty influence society in different countries? What is your country like?
I think that images of people living in poverty make everyone in every society feel bad. And there are a large number of people in every society in the world who try to fight poverty, whether locally, in their own communities, or as a global problem. That is how images of poverty influence people as individuals. As for how images of poverty influence societies, I think all governments of the world try to alleviate poverty, as well as many NGOs and private corporations. So, as a whole, images of poverty causes all aspects of society to try to combat it…and that really shows the empathy of humankind. We as people naturally feel awful to see others in pain and hardship, which is one of our best strengths, as a species. But I think that we need to change our economic and societal systems if we want to see real change, in terms of poverty, and other issues.
In my country (the U.S.), images of poverty have the same effect on society as every other country; it makes people feel sad and angry (and possible confused, as well, as to why there needs to be poverty, in the world. In many ways, it seems like poverty as we know it, today (not having any food to eat, being homeless, etc.) should not exist.
To what extent does stigma contribute to the experience of living in poverty in your country, and in your opinion what could be done to address this?
I think stigma contributes to people’s experiences of poverty no matter where they live, but there is more stigma in developed countries because the ideal in those countries is to be well-to-do—more so than in developing countries. So, I think that if a person in the U.S. lives in poverty, the stigma s/he might face from the people around her will be more severe than in the case of a poor person in, say, Sudan. The societal expectation of Americans is to at least be getting by, financially.
I think this phenomenon is because of the socio-economic conditions of both countries. To illustrate this theory; if an American lives in poverty, then s/he’s often seen as either “not a hard worker,” “depends on government subsidies (lazy),” or another stigmatic label (that is usually false). But if a Sudanese lives in poverty (in her home country of Sudan), people usually consider (rightly so) the bad socio-economic condition of Sudan—that Sudan has only weak opportunities for development, that life is not good for many of its citizens, etc.
But the truth is; America has a problem just like Sudan in that there is poverty/homelessness/hunger in America. The fact of America being a rich country, having good opportunities, etc. doesn’t negate that. Though there’s stigma to living in poverty, there shouldn’t be any stigma towards anyone in poverty.
What in your opinion works in reducing the negative impact of growing up in poverty on a child’s life chances?
I think having good public schools in every neighbourhood can reduce the negative impact of poverty on a child’s life chances. If the child can receive a good education, that can be a big help in building a brighter future for that child. Having good community services/support for the child and their family can also reduce the impact of poverty on a child’s life chances. E.g., religious institutions often offer strong community ties, a foundation of faith for its members, and opportunities for personal development and enrichment. These assets and resources can reduce the impact of poverty on a child’s life chances by (for example) instilling such traits as leadership, courage, a sense of how to work with other people, and hope for a better future.
I know there will always be many cases where poverty (and the various issues connected to it) is too much of a roadblock for the child, making it impossible for them to live up to their full potential. This is sad and unfair—I wish this wasn’t reality.
Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. How does this make you feel and is this something you think about and actively try and change, and if so how?
This fact makes me feel very bad. When I run into “issues,” in my life (which, I have realized, all fall under “highly-privileged-person problems”—e.g., worrying about how I will do in a class in college, or something), and when I feel sorry for myself about them, I wish someone would shake me and tell me; stop it. You have nothing to complain about.
As for trying to make a difference in the fight to end poverty, I have actually been involved with a non-profit called the Borgen Project , which strives to alleviate global poverty by making global poverty a top concern of the U.S. government. I was an editor for their on-line articles about poverty, doing such things as fact-checking and content editing. I also was involved by making phone calls to senators’ and congressmen’s offices and asking them to support certain bills that call for world poverty alleviation, and trying to fund-raise. I am actually planning on doing grant writing volunteer work for a poverty-alleviation non-profit, in the future.
Do you think war is ever necessary and why?
I think war is necessary in only two circumstances (to my recognition, so far): When a group of people suffer oppression and injustice, and their oppressors don’t desist or say they will not (this can be under the guise of “we’re not doing any wrong”), and 2. In self-defence.
I think the phrase “going to war” is frowned upon by many people…and rightly so, it can be argued. There have been few justified wars (morally speaking) in human history—many wars have been fought over power and money—baseless things. But one cannot let the fact that wars have been misused persuade them to think that war is never necessary. They must analyse the reason for a group going to war. Like, if no one went to war against the Nazi party during WWII, imagine how many more innocent people would have been killed.
Who profits and gains in general from war, in your opinion?
I think that the stronger forces/countries involved in the battles are the ones who benefit from war, because they can exploit their enemy forces in certain ways.
In your opinion what motivates war? Is it capitalism, patriarchy, the standing of a country or revenge etc?
In theory, war can be caused by many things, even justified things…but in reality, war is caused by things as desire for power, land, etc., and the things that you mentioned, as well. Only rarely is war used to end oppression, for example.
Do you think enough is done by the global community to help the people affected by the ongoing occupations and wars globally? As well as the aftermath; leaving people with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, homeless, and often completely destabilised in general.
To answer the first question; no, I don’t think so. The global community rarely does enough, actually. Like, for example, I once read a statistic that more U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel than to the whole of Africa!
Africa, whose countries suffer from horrendous wars and poverty. I’m not sure if that statistic is true, but if it is, then that is simply insane. And regardless of whether or not that specific statistic is true or not, it is true that Israel receives more U.S. aid than many poor countries, in the world, combined. (“Israel is the largest recipient of US. aid in the entire world. It receives more aid than that given to all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, put together. for more information follow this link: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/ The global community often serves its own interests, rather than helping humanity.
Just to give one example; my own country of Sudan; I remember seeing a political cartoon a while ago about how the world had just about ignored the atrocities that had occurred in Darfur. It’s not that they weren’t aware (obviously), or that they couldn’t offer as much constructive help, but they just didn’t.
I don’t think the aftermath of war and occupation is dealt with effectively, either. I always see and hear about refugees fleeing their warring countries (like the Syrian refugees, these days) only to go through hard things, in their host countries, occupied peoples living in bad conditions, and so on. Again; the global community needs to get it together, in many cases.
How do you feel about the media’s use of propaganda when discussing war and the rhetoric of the “good guys and bad guys” being fed to the masses?
I think that sometimes the “good guys v bad guys” rhetoric given by the media can be justifiable (like when there really are good guys and bad guys, involved (like certain oppressive regimes, in the world, and the countries/groups who try to stop them). But it often isn’t. So, I think the media should give honest information about wars/conflicts in the world, and then let the audience members decide for themselves who the good guys and the bad guys are. Journalists and other news-providers can give their opinion on who the good guys and bad guys are when it’s suitable to do so, but unless the situation is obviously spelled-out as to who the enemies are (like the Nazi party in WWII, or even a less obvious example), journalists should remember that wars and other situations are often very complex. It wouldn’t be ethical to draw a line of division between groups of people when the situation (in reality) may not call for that.
Lastly we would like to know of your own experiences with either war or poverty or both. Have you or anyone in your family been affected by them and how are you now or are you still affected?
As an immigrant to the U.S., and as someone who is lucky to have a family that has enough money, I myself haven’t had any experiences with war or poverty. But back in my home country, there have been several great wars, and the economy is bad—that has affected my family, in Sudan. These issues have led to anger on the part of all the Sudanese citizens, including my family.
Find out more about Ethar Hamid by following these links: