Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 20, 1999
WCR Letters to the Editor
The refusal to fight povertyAt this consumer-crazed time of year, formerly known as Christmas, poverty is addressed, as usual, by self-righteous charity - food banks, the Christmas Bureau, Santa's Anonymous and light displays. We are afraid to confront its cause.
Even to question whether there is severe poverty in Canada is to lose one's humanity. That substantial inequality, which defines poverty, exists despite the country's astounding wealth and high and rising incomes for elites is not in doubt. According to the UN, Canada is in 16th place among developed countries in the percentage of the population that lives in poverty.
The conventional view is that there always has been and always will be poverty. But, don't you think that governments, supposedly charged with the public good, could solve it if they really wanted to?
In our adversarial system, meaning "savage capitalism," there are more than a million people unemployed, some two million poor and three million on welfare (nationally). Nearly one in five citizens is needy. There is no prejudice shown to corporations kept dependent on the public dole.
Governments have assigned the job of dealing with poverty to social agencies. This approach fails because the remedy is part of the disease. Since it is primarily an economic condition, such charities only maintain and prolong the malaise.
Social workers don't redistribute wealth. They really are wolves in sheep's clothing because they place band-aids on the mess made by the owner-operators of the country.
Why should the needy be grateful for the crumbs (EI, SFI) left over from the politico-corporate table? Human dignity demands relative security and freedom from fear, not living like misfed animals. Advising thrift to the poor is akin to telling a starving person to eat less.
Big business won't solve the inequality it has created. Corporations are undemocratic, publicly unaccountable and interested primarily in shareholders' profits.
The materially comfortable and politically inactive middle class must also share heavy blame for maintaining the status quo. They are potentially all-powerful because they have the most votes, but don't vote to attack the root cause (unshared wealth) of poverty. However, they know that it is wrong to steal from their neighbour.
What they haven't figured out yet is that once you get beyond this one-to-one level and pit the individual against transnational conglomerates, government bureaucracies, agribusiness and the banking and gas monopolies, it becomes a value judgment to decide who is stealing from whom.
Capitalism is licence to steal; the government regulates who does the stealing and how much.
The gullible middle class has internalized the values of the rich and powerful - dog-eat-dog competition and hypocritical charity - and actually espouses them more fiercely than do the rich. Charity assuages the guilt.
Can the social cancer that is poverty ever be cured? It was unknown in distant cultures until they became "developed." There probably wasn't any among North American First Nations peoples before most of them (estimates range up to 10 million) were exterminated.
Today in some industrial nations - Sweden, Norway, Japan - poverty is minimal. Here, in the late 1940s and early 1950s unemployment seldom rose above three per cent.
Poverty should shame us all, but especially our elected employees who have the power to abolish it.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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