A Morning Conversation with Mr Rich

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I didn’t choose to be poor. If I had to click, I would have selected to be born by a woman with Aishwarya Rai’s beauty and a father with Aliko Dangote’s richess.

If I had created myself, I would have made a woman who would be as perfect as goddess.

If I had created myself, I would have made a handsome and intelligent man.

If I had to choose a country to be born in, I would have chosen the country of sun, milk and honey. But I was born here.

If I had to choose a house, I would have opted for a palace and not a hut; not that hurriedly built with the help of my neighbors. But I would build a house that I would have taken time to dream about, design and create.

But I was born here

The place where I was born, I don’t hate it. No! But I hate sleeping on the floor, I hate feeling a minuscule stone jammed between my ribs, offering the passage to a gentle but violent wind that penetrates to cause me an illness that the doctor will later on call pneumonia. That wind sneaked into my ribs, created a silent and sharp pain and shortening my life span.

Mr Rich was pissed off and told me:

“But go to the hospital!”

I wanted to laugh because he ignored the fact that I didn’t have enough strength as I slept with an empty stomach. He ignored that last night; I offered my last piece of sweet potato to my son to calm his tears. He crunched it raw with his budding teeth.

Ohh! You call me a lazy and neglecting mother?

Are you kidding me? The forest, where I used to amass firewood, is locked with wire for they have decided to protect the environment! Isn’t it weird? It would be hilarious if the mucous membrane of my stomach were not torn up from swallowing empty air.

We protect the environment! What irony! They protect it against me and they don’t protect it against tycoons who cut its trees yet I am hungrier than them! I desire food but their hunger is for dosh. iBelieve me, no one blurs the hunger of wealth.

Ohh! You need more evidence you say?

The riches, you surround yourselves with necessity, comfort, luxury and then folly.

Ohh! You think I am lying?

Here is an example. You buy clothes to wear and protect yourself against the cold and pneumonia that gnaws ribs; isn’t that necessity? You buy more than a pair of clothes, isn’t that comfort? You buy flossy clothes that match your shapes and liking and appease your moods; isn’t that luxury? And you sink in the folly when you reach marques: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada.

Ohh! It was not a good example? Do you mean I mentioned the caprices of your wife, Sir?

Ah, here is another example for you in that case! You have the right to dream about traveling: Necessity. You can afford economy class flight: Comfort. You realize that the cabin space is too small; I can’t close my eyes in the economy category.

It’s too much, I have to join the business class: Luxury. And then,… there, there is the other guy, the other millionaire. He can’t watch my throat when I am eating! He can’t see me sleeping because he might guess my weaknesses. Why do I have to drink the same wine brand as him while I am at the top of Forbes’ richest men in the current century and him somewhere in the middle of the list? This must change, I need a private jet, isn’t this folly?

Silence.

Ohh! I don’t understand, you say? Yeah, explain to me Sir, because I don’t understand neither why you surround yourself with necessity, comfort, luxury and… folly while I am still struggling for the necessity?

Ohh! I should work harder?

What is the definition of working harder, Sir? From 5 am to 3 pm, I am in the field cultivating my land. I saw the sky thirsting, my land drying up and my harvest disappearing. In the radio, the other day, they said that your corporation contributed to global warming. And it prevents regular rains…

Ohh! You don’t want me to raise the climate change debate? Should we talk about something else, Sir?

OK. Let’s come back on your recent interview? You mentioned it was a shame that I condemn my children to die from non-communicable diseases at the age 19 or 30 years?

Ohh! You are shaking your shoulders? So you still agree with that, Sir? Do you mean I should go on?

Hmm, the only reason why I don’t properly feed my children is because I can’t afford proper food. Organic food is just too expensive. The place where I live offers only junk food! I can’t afford a cab to go finding better food elsewhere although I have coins for public transport. But if your company could increase my honorarium, perhaps I will start dreaming about healthy food.

Ohh! My wages totally fall in the legal range?

Didn’t you know that the systems in place favor your avarice? Ooh, sorry I was thinking loudly, I meant your business? But I was wondering why did these systems forget people like me? Why did these systems forget people who live in the stench? Yesterday after your interview I heard a certain Bryan Stevenson saying that the opposite of poverty is not wealth but injustice. What do you think about this concept?

Ohh! You think that having everything is not a form of injustice?

Do you believe that having nothing is destiny? Because I did not choose this destiny. I was born this way and I don’t know how to exit.

Ohh! Work hard, you say? You amass wealth to ensure a brilliant future for your children?

If I understand well my destitution has to serve the future of your children? Don’t you think you underestimate their talents? If they are your progeny, they should have inherited your genius genes and should therefore build their own empires!

Ohh! It’s not what you meant? I am sorry it is what I thought. You meant you wanted a brighter future for them. That’s all.

But why do you think about their future and neglect my present? Why did you forget your past? The journalist said you were born in miserable conditions, worked hard and became rich? This hurts me more. What did your poverty serve?

Ohh! motivation for hard working!

No I wanted to say what did your poverty serve to people like us who work hard but don’t make a way?

Silence.

Ohh! You don’t know? You fund humanitarian organizations?

This hurts even more. Why does your money have to go through all these complex channels? Why don’t you increase our salaries? Why don’t you pay for our health insurance? Why don’t you invest in our retirement? Why not directly act? Because I believe if everyone contributes something and does his individual good, the world around us becomes noble and several small noble worlds form one unique better world.

Ohh! what do I suggest?

Many things but first of all stop creating a world where I suit for a case study, become a statistic and serve as an NGO mission, just because I am poor.

Then, Sir, come to the poor, us who are ready to help you, to teach you and give you intangible wealth even as we draw from you.

Come and discover our universe of destitution, come with a heart ready to suffer with us, a heart without arrogance or pretention. Come with a soul ready to experience the richness of true poverty. If you were born poor, grew rich, I wish you to die poor as you will have understood the secret of life.

Ohh! Why would you do that?

You are right. For that, the living poor will protect and bless your children. You will have created a bright future for your children. No one will ever hurt them, as they will always remember the generosity of their father.

Ohh! And you? What do you win?

I thought you amass treasures for your children? Brief, If you really help the poor today, you get your margin later on because life is short and I have no idea where we go after it’s over.

Ohh! This conversation ends here, you say?

Ok. Thank you for listening to me, Monsieur.

Ohh! Before I step out, whom do I call a rich person?

Sir, I don’t have a precise definition. It is absolutely not a white, a yellow or a black person. It is not that but everyone who owes and keeps an extra something that could save his neighbor who doesn’t possess it. So, it can be everyone who has something to offer, but it starts by you Sir!

Silence.

Caroline Numuhire

I am in love with Mr. Pen

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