Poverty is a constant threat

“Poverty is the worst form of

– Mahatma Gandhi

No, he wasn’t talking about terrorism. He was talking about poverty. Such are the clear words of one the greatest men of our times. As the G-8 summit in Kananaskis steadily approaches, we need to step back from the vagaries and incoherent details of the globalization debate and take a look at what it’s all about.

A recent study by the World Bank (http://econ.worldbank.org/files/978_wps2244.pdf) revealed how hard the spread of global capitalism, or globalization, has been on the world’s poor. The results show that the world’s richest one per cent, whose average income of $240,000, is far more than the world’s poorest 60 per cent, nearly 2.7 billion people. The study found the gap between the rich in poor is more like a canyon. About 84 per cent of the world population receives only 16 per cent of the world’s income. I’m no economist but the study is essentially stating the obvious: the few rich got richer and poverty-stricken masses got poorer.

If you want a truly complete picture of the world we live in, the level of economic injustice must be understood. While we sit here leading our comfy first world existence, everything else slowly disintegrates. Knowledge of how rancid and vicious poverty is in the third world is essential to making sense of what we see on the news. News like the thousands of Chinese immigrants risking their lives travelling in hellish conditions just to reach Canada’s shores. Perhaps the latest is hundreds of Iraqi and Afghan refugees willing to commit suicide at sea rather than turn their ships back and return home. Maybe the masses of Mexican immigrants trekking through deserts, over barbed wire fences, risking being fired on by border patrols just to make it to America is the latest example.

Does any of it make sense?

We live in a world where millions are so desperate they sacrifice their honour, dignity and lives just to get a job at McDonald’s or Holiday Inn.

And what about terrorism and violence? Why are so many young people so willing to devote themselves to terrorism or become militants? Why does so much violence plague Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia? Gandhi was right in calling poverty the worst form of violence.

Imagine you had no future. Imagine possible death at every corner, from AIDS, bullets or starvation. Imagine you were oppressed and humiliated every single day. Imagine getting a loaf of bread was an epic struggle. Imagine the prospects of an education or life beyond 40 as nothing but a fantasy. Under such conditions, think of what your life goals would be, even what your plans for the day would be. Personally, I’d gladly pick up an AK-47 and join a local militant group. If my life was that meaningless, I might as well go out with a bang. It might sound sick when looking at it from our cushioned lives but not from that of a desperate young third worlder.

Poverty threatens us all. We must acknowledge that peace can never be achieved in this world without some redistribution of wealth. Poverty threatens world stability and the very fabric of global society. Instead of waging a fantasy-driven war on terror we need an international war on poverty. Let us take the words of Michael Moore, head of the World Bank seriously: "Poverty is a time bomb lodged against the heart of liberty."

Feedback on this article can be sent to opinions@gauntlet.ucalgary.ca.

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