Rich v. Poor – the world is divided

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    this is also posted at Daily Kos

    On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts. Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries.

    The words are from Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization, and a founder of the Blue Planet Project. She opposes the G-20.   She spoke to a gathering of activists in Massey Hall who gathered in opposition to the summit.  

    You can read the source of the quote here, where they were reproduced on Friday from Amy Goodman’s Democracy, Now!.

    A few more facts offered by Barlow:

    2009 saw another 34 million added to the global unemployment, now at 239 million.   another 64 million will be added to those roles this year.

    But we could bail out Wall Street and equivalent financial institutions around the world.

    Or this:  

    By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation. Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year.

    One more:  

    Fact, we are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, two million tons of sewage and industrial agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. That’s the equivalent of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of waste water produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. We are minding our ground water faster than we can replenish it, sucking it to grow water guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water into oceans every year as waste.

    We are destroying our planet.  We are condemning billions to a wretched existence.  We are seeing obscene accumulations of wealth and power that could only have been imagined in previous generations, simultaneously denying a future, hope, possibility to those left behind.

    Today I should not be blogging.  Today I have to work on an essay review on how our educational policy is destroying the educational system and thereby the hope for millions of children in this nation, those whose parents lack money and power, who are often either children of color in inner cities and barrios, but who could be white, black or hispanic in rural communities into which the wealth and benefits of the American economy never seem to reach.

    We have much to do to address the increasing inequality within our nation.  

    We cannot forget that it is the policies of our government, which empower transnational corporate interests – ours and those of other nations – that are behind the acceleration of the inequity, the increase of suffering, the destruction of what should be the common heritage of all mankind.

    I cannot easily summarize all of the points Barlow makes.  The general thrust of her argument should not surprise anyone reading my words, which are posted at a web site in which almost all of them have been addressed in some fashion over the recent years.  

    Yet still her words contain power, because she ties together so much.

    we can spend trillions on wars of choice, perhaps justifying our continued military endeavor in Pakistan not so much because of Al Qaeda or even the Taliban, but rather because of the potential trillions in mineral wealth not purportedly identified within that nation.

    We know where that will lead.  It will lead to more conflict, more accumulation of power and wealth, more disruption of the lives and communities of those who stand in the way of the development of those resources.  We have seen this with oil, we are now seeing it with water, and with food.  

    the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history –  and that we live in a so-called wealthy country will not protect us, not most of us, when those who have already become obscenely rich are allowed to continue to control the political and economic processes to their benefit while most Americans benefit not.  

    Perhaps we need to go back to another time, to the 1930s, to the worlds of Florence Reece, as sung by Pete Seeger:  

    The words may have been written on behalf of the UMW coal miners.  Think more broadly.  Think of all those who still have not.  Think of all those at risk of losing what they have.  

    Think of those unwilling to pay taxes they can well afford, and simultaneously unwilling to let the government borrow to help those at risk survive, and then ask yourself:  Which side are you on?

    This is a global issue.  It is an issue of basic morality.  

    We must choose, for even to remain silent is to choose –  to support those who are Rich and Powerful and seemingly do not care about the rest of us, the billions who have not and are losing even what they did have –  no job, no income, no unemployment compensation . . .  then soon no home.  This is what we confront at home.  

    And around the world?  No education, little water or food, still less hope.

    The world is divided –   which side are we on?

    I should be doing other things.  I will do that to which I have committed myself.

    But I could not simply read and move on.  I felt I had to use the opportunity to call the words of Maude Barlow to the attention of others who might not have encountered them.

    Having read – and listened to – her words, I do not find myself at Peace.

    What about you?

    • Teddy Goodson

      is an apt description of the final result of what we human beings are doing. Daily I am reminded of how Jared Dimanond in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed describes Easter Island, settled and ultimately nearly destroyed by the Polynesians. The Island, originally heavily forested, surrounded by seas teeming with food fish, was utterly denuded of trees, the seas overfished, and the islanders, unable to build the ocean-going canoes of their ancestors because of lack of wood, isolated in their poverty, were unable to contact other Polynesian islands for help.

      We are doing on a planetary scale exactly what the residents of Easter Island did to their little island when they refused to change their self-destructive way of life, or to modify their social system in ways that might have preserved the basis of life itself. In other words, the Easter Islanders and we are choosing to fail. Does humanity have a death wish?