Watched Gangs of New York again a couple days ago, an amazing cinematic experience. The visual effect is stunning and beautiful. It feels like you've gone back in time. While featuring gratuitous violence and nudity (thankfully TNT cut or otherwise obscured the nudity in the latest showing), the actor Daniel Day-Lewis is mezmerizing in his role and the visual art of it lets the story off the hook to some extent. (Perhaps if I had the patience to watch Moulin Rouge I would feel similar to the way Ham o' Bone does, who swears by it.) In one particularly memorable scene, set on the night before the New York City riots of 1863, a wealthy man is shown praying for mercy and the two poor tenants praying for justice and/or revenge. Pretty much the story of life here on earth.
National Geographic attempts to separate fact from fiction concerning the film, but after the Gospel of Judas debacle this is sort of like the National Enquirer opining on the truth in The Star.
The cynical view of politics is that in a democracy politicians vie to buy votes.
This generally occurs by buying off different groups with favors, ideally increasing the number of groups, for the more people you can make dependent on government, the more power and influence and status government officials will have. Never underestimate the importance of status as a source of motivation.
But rarely has the buying been as naked as it has been this year. There is talk on Capitol Hill of a second stimulous package. As talk show host Bob Brinker says, it's no coincindence this is happening during an election year: "Never underestimate the ability of politicians to send money to their constituents during an election year." Don't be fooled into thinking they love you. They love you only for your vote. (If babies in the womb could just vote...).
In that Vatican URL I posted the other day, the link between poverty and depression was emphasized, the former causing the latter in many people. Which is all the more motivation to help the poor since mental pain is worse than physical. Their needs are also indirectly spiritual since, as Karl Keating wrote in the most recent "This Rock" magazine, if you're struggling to survive then doctrine or learning about God isn't going to be a priority. Keating seemed almost apologetic for all the time he'd spent on apologetics, quoting St. Augustine's "late have I loved you".
To actually see the conditions changes you according to a fellow who went to my high school. In our alumni magazine he writes of going to Cambodia (he received 42 vaccinations beforehand): "I'm going to remember those kids forever. It's something that changes you and you don't really understand why. It gets into you and you just have to do something. It was difficult to leave."
It's hard to be satisfied with helping the poor simply through income redistribution. Certainly welfare was a system that made things worse. The root cause of poverty in many countries is corrupt leaders; no wonder Richard Brookhiser says our best president was our first. At the very least it's hard to think of anyone in that office since who was as virtuous. So I guess all we can do is give to the poor and ask God to raise up "secular saints" like George Washington in those countries where the rule of law and economic system lay in ruins.