What is the story behind a man who sleeps on the sidewalk with no roof over his head? How did he end up with just a piece of cardboard to separate his body from the cold hard ground? In this shiny age of the internet what twisted circumstances brought about the abject poverty of this man who wraps a dirty cotton cloth around his head to keep the bright neon lights out?
How did the distribution of wealth become so uneven that Tom Cruise gets paid USD25 million each time he pretends to be somebody he is not in fictional situations and the man on the sidewalk can’t even afford a pillow to rest his weary head? The system must be wrong! So is there a real alternative out there? One which will not leave people behind to wallow in the poisonous exhaust of the car called progress?
In 2006 the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize to one Muhammed Yunus and the bank he founded, Grameen Bank. The latter is one of the few banks around the globe that specializes in microcredit in which small loans are made out to people who are viewed as poor credit risk by the traditional banking world. With this small amount of money, the recipients are expected to make a head start in small cottage industries to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. It brings to the mind the old adage of giving someone a rod to fish rather than giving him just free fish which has finite value.
As with all schemes, this one has its problems. The most obvious one would be people not repaying their loans and thus depriving the bank of its source of revenue to continue helping others. The world is full of shady people who will abuse any system but they are not good enough reason to stop helping others who will honor the loan and improve their lot in life. This aim is too important to be waylaid by those who will forever be crooks.
Would things have been any different for our man on the sidewalk if he knew of microcredit? I will never know. A day after i saw him, the man is no longer there. He has slipped through the cracks again, forever to be hidden in the dark recesses of human existence.