The Sydney Morning Herald reported a story titled The big divide: the super rich versus struggle street. I thought it was worth looking at this further from a perspective of extreme poverty. Is there any correlation? Is this part of the conversation?
A short answer would be ‘No’.
The conditions of those in extreme poverty is so atrocious, it beggars belief. Try and comprehend 4,000 children dying daily from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.
Just as this is not the ‘fault’ of someone else having a lot of money (or little money), it is not ultimately solved by more money or more aid being directed at the problem. Neither is ‘more awareness’ on its own going to solve the problem. Same for ‘more education’.
These are all pieces of how the problem should be addressed. Aid given through foreign policy could be targeted as much as the ‘super-rich’. It also becomes a big ethical question of what is super-rich and how should ‘they’ respond? Should being able to have a manicure (the opening example in the article) necessarily entail obligation and responsibility and more for someone who is less able.
My friend Virginia challenged me on how is the 10 City Bridge Run going to make a difference. I believe it will do this through leverage. And it is at its core an intellectual challenge. This does not mean that we all sit around and think our way out of extreme poverty. That would be nonsense and action is required.
How might this change things, really? That is a good question. Imagine many people (many in the thousands) who each change how they think about this issue a little bit, not just one but on a regular or occasional basis over the course of a year, and with their thinking their actions also change.
This is what I believe needs to occur. Maybe meeting the Millennium Development Goals is impossible. Noises from New York would already indicate that the global financial crisis is the convenient reason to explain why these targets have not been met.
If the conversation about extreme poverty is only measured in money and aid, rather than actions and outcomes my fear is that the end of poverty will be a long, long way from us yet. To create a change, we first need to change our thinking, and very quickly after that have our actions reflect this change in mindset.
If anything, the conversation about the ‘super-rich’ and ‘struggle street’ is an unwelcome distraction from what constitutes extreme poverty. Good for selling newspapers.
A demographer at KPMG, Bernard Salt, said rising inequality was beside the point as most Australians were better off than they were 20 years ago.
”If there is a divergence emerging it is because the super wealthy are doing so much better. I don’t think it’s because the battlers are going backwards. Everyone did well, it’s just that the upper end did well better,” he said. (quoted from the SMH article)