Do you define poverty ? Understanding the Hydra… by Brian Ritchie


To slay it, one must first understand it.

In ancient Greek mythology, the Hydra was a serpent-like monster who’s lair was the murky waters of Lerna. It served as a guard to the entrance of the Underworld and the legend of its poisonous breath and blood was widely known.

What made the Hydra so interesting was that it was virtually impossible to kill. It had 9 heads, one of which was immortal, and slaying any of the heads would result in two more appearing.

I liken ‘poverty’ to the Hydra. Here’s why:

Poverty has continued to exist through time. It is virtually impossible to get rid off, at least, not completely – the laws of capitalism and sheer simple economics makes this a no-brainer to understand why and yet, despite it being so prevalent, it continues to remain so apparent, so unscathed. There are many worthy mentions who are slowly chipping away at portions of it and yet, the beast still stands guard – infecting more and more of the populace.

I want to slay the Hydra.

Or at the very least significantly cripple it…

Like any problem, the best way to solve it it to first, really and truly understand what it is that we are confronting.

I haven’t approached this scientifically, nor have I put a lot of personal thought into it yet, but I have the fortunate circumstance of enjoying a rather diverse social circle. So, I recently (and randomly) prompted them with the question – “How do you define poverty?”

Most admitted that they never really thought about the definition before that very moment, and some opted to immediately liken it to the physical imagery of people lacking basic needs such as food, water, and shelter.

Others decided to think about it a little more during conversation and expand on their answers.

What they came back with fascinated me.

Here’s a paraphrased collation of my understanding from some (not all) of conversations I’ve had:

  1. Poverty tends to only exist in the eyes of its beholder. What is comfort to one, may be suffering for another
  2. There is a duality to poverty – the physical suffering of a person and the mental starvation of humans
  3. Poverty tends to exist in some cases not because one lacks the motivation to move up in life, but because one is not aware of the opportunities available to them


I shall end this post rather abruptly here, not because I’ve run out of material to write, but because I want to have a call to action, prompting not just myself, but you – the reader – to circle back to the question – “How do you define poverty?”

If you have a definition, or a comment or critique that you would like to share regarding the topic, do send it my way by either leaving a comment below or contacting me through any one of the social channels listed on the sidebar.