“There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”
— Frank Buchman, Protestant evangelist
EIGHT individuals now have wealth equal to 3.6 Billion other human beings, i.e. 50% of the World’s population. How is this equitable, let alone humane or just?
Reading of Oxfam’s latest findings was one of the most nauseating experiences of my life. When, last year, I read that it was down to 73 individuals I was insensed but, if anything, the movement of resources from the poor to the rich seems to be accelerating.
We are all visitors to this planet and here for a relatively short time. There are ample resources to provide for all life.
The notion that the Earth cannot sustain an increasing population is flawed because it doesnt take into account inequity in either access to or relative levels of consumption. In any case, population growth is expected to slow.
The problem is not that of too many people but of too much INEQUITY in the distribution of resources.
Yes, those who are at the top end of the wealth stakes include many that are corrupt or who have operated with varying degrees of callousness in pursuing their richest. There are some, of course, who do use some of their wealth for good purposes. They are privileged to be able to make the grand gesture but it doesn’t justify or excuse the inequity. On the contrary, it brings to mind the parable of the “Widow’s Mite”.
The rich who do good are just as culpable as those who do bad. Those that are wealthy through “good fortune” rather than corruption, theft or worse, are still guilty of welcoming, utilising, promoting and maintaining an economic system that produces inequity and injustice.
However, many of the 3.6 billion people who hold the other 50% of the wealth are not free from guilt, either. This is particularly true though not exclusiely so, of those in the so-called “developed world” for many of them, (if not most) are socialised to focus their lives and work on accumulating wealth and on material consumerism.
The obesity epidemic in the developed world is one obvious symptom of this gluttony, as is the almost unimagineable quantities of waste which people of the richer nations produce.
Capitalism and the developed world life-style infects the population with greed and selfishness. It engenders an individualism that is pernicious and uncaring and promotes it as a positive, even noble, attribute. Donald Trump exploited the disadvantaged to build his Trump Tower and has twice been declared bankrupt, despite having been given $300 million to start his career, and those bankruptcies will have hurt and deprived ordinary workers and sub contractors, while he has continued to live in luxury. Despite this, it is those very workers who have formed the majority of Trump’s support group and caused the biggest election upset in America’s history. Ironically, Trump is wealthy as a result of his engagement, with gusto, in the very practices which have hurt his supporters and in NO WAY will he be a good president for them. His rhetoric is cynical and superficial hyperbole and the only ones that his presidency will help will be himself, his family, and his friends.
The Trump phenomenon is a blatant example of the ideological conditioning that has taken place to limit the horizons of ordinary folk and to dumb down their perceptions and ability to recognise and understand that when they support this economic system, they act against their own interests.
Whilst there are many good people who are contributing to assist the developing world to solve its problems, the reality is that big business and “smart” individuals continue to exploit its people and their resources such that otherwise self-sufficient communities are destroyed, people must move away and seek work in towns and cities that cannot provide it, nor adequately cope with their needs for the basic necessities of life.
People who have for generations lived relatively happily in what, to us, are subsistence life-styles, have seen their ability to live as they would, taken away. The environment has been destroyed or altered irretrievably in order to profit the wealthy of other nations and often the corrupt leaders of their own. Anyone who has visited a city such as Port Moresby and seen the luxury high-rises and walled compounds of the rich few, surrounded by the shanty towns of the many, will know of what I speak. What one sees is a graphic view of the contrast between exteme poverty and corrupt and gluttonous wealth. There are many more examples, all over the World.
There is NO EXCUSE for this inequity. Yet when such figures are released, I rarely even hear a comment from our governments and “leaders”. When one is forthcoming, it will generally in some way turn things around and blame the victims. Yet again, horrifically, when I speak to ordinary working Australians around me, I constantly hear references to “those black kids vandalising everything” and “we should look after our own before we let these boat people in – they just want our life-style”. These, similar and worse comments are , sadly, common and typicl of the views of most working class Australians.
This lack of compassion and understanding is expressed just as readily about our own indigenous people, the Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, from whom the British stole this land and over which the indigenous people have never given up sovereignty. No treaty, no compensation, little acknowledgment and complete disregard for their traditional life-style and the skills and knowledge which they have and had used to manage the Australian environment for 70,000 years.
It saddens me that so many ordinary people can be so conditioned to believe an obnoxious delusion that frames materialist, consumerism and competitive individualism as being admirable goals. It astounds me that ordinary people will complain about the disadvantaged getting government assistance that they don’t – and yet not see that, effectively, their complaints indicate envy of life-styles that not for one minute would any of them desire. Not one of them, I suspect, would change places to get those “hand-outs” which cause them so much ire.
Yes, that 8 individuals now share as much wealth as 50% of the World’s population is disgusting indeed, however each of us need to consider to what degree we, ourselves, contribute to this situation and see success in our own lives as being measured by materialism as opposed to health, happiness, caring, compassion and value of difference.
Behind the deceptive words designed to entice people into supporting violence — words like democracy, freedom, self-defense, national security — there is the reality of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, while billions of people in the world are hungry, sick, homeless.
– HOWARD ZINN, preface, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train