Letters to the Editor

Poverty defined relative to wealth

To the Editor,

Re:  Child poverty strategy vital, Opinion, July 9.

Not to patently underscore the significance of poverty in developed industrial nations, but we must keep it in perspective.

Our poor live in ‘relative poverty’ in that they are poor ‘relative’ to the wealth of their immediate neighbors who are living in ‘absolute affluence’ with wealth way beyond that which is required to provide for their personal needs.

Third World poverty is absolute poverty, where people live at the absolute margin of existence in a way that by anyone’s standard is inhumane; 1.7 billion live in absolute poverty and generate 15 million deaths annually to malnutrition, even though the world has enough food to feed them.

That is, in large part, because we, the affluent, direct grains into production of meat, milk, eggs and bio-fuels, inflating our per capita grain consumption which outprices grain for those in absolute poverty.

Sadly, the statistics are depressing; as developed nations become more affluent, their benevolence in the form of ratio of aid to GNP diminishes and their concern about maintaining and enhancing their collected wealth increases.

How do we reconcile a morality that measures success in terms of wealth, cultivating inequities that result in a reality where the three richest men on Earth have more assets than the combined GNP of all the world’s poor countries combined?

It is right, as egalitarian Canadians, to be concerned for those among us that live in relative poverty and helping locally is efficient because it avoids large bureaucracies and it is needed.

But we must acknowledge horrific human sufferance transcends our local boundaries and we have an ethical obligation to help with a problem that we contributed to.

Ron Heusen

Nanaimo

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