Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oxfam says that the world's 100 richest people could wipe out 'extreme' poverty!


Really--- the world’s 100 richest people could wipe out ‘extreme’ poverty?’ Wonderful, you say. The world’s problems are over. Well I don’t think you will hold to that first reaction once you think about it, except those of you who hold to the viewpoint that people are basically good.

Think for a moment about how those top 100 individuals or families attained that massive amount of wealth. Such people are a combination of the industrious and many other ‘qualities.’ They are driven to seek power and riches; indeed some would say they are obsessed. Once they reach a certain level many of them are them are determined to win at any costs yet more wealth and power. They reach a point where power and wealth go together, even political power. They have no intention of releasing any significant proportion of power once they have achieved it.

Yes, there are examples of philanthropic people who give away a great deal of money to causes they believe in. We saw an example of that in New Zealand a few years ago when one of our own (Morgan) gave away the majority of his ‘well earned’ wealth. However, such individuals are in the minority.

The very idea of giving up the majority of one’s wealth is totally repugnant to most extremely wealthy persons. They will go to great lengths to ‘hold and increase their positions, so don’t expect anytime soon to see the top 100 divesting themselves of their power and wealth.

Let’s pretend though for a while, that these individuals did have an epiphany; one that that leads them to see the plight of the World’s suffering masses and then genuinely see a need to ‘help the extreme poor. Oxfam is naive if they think that simply giving away money to the extreme poor would make any long term difference. Any massive relief effort must take a longer term view and take into account the reasons for extreme poverty.

Those ‘reasons’ are multiple; including, endemic corruption, long-held beliefs based on culture and religion re the size of families, natural disasters like drought and floods, and political systems that do not allow for shifts in power sharing, just to name a few.

Poverty will never disappear so the best we can do is to alleviate the worst aspects of this. I do not think that the world expects these 100 individuals to give up their wealth, but if they ever did see a place for them to take action, then ‘some difference’ could be achieved. Having said that I have absolutely no confidence that even a small portion of the 100 would come to the party. They no doubt think (those who even care) that they have given enough. Perhaps my view of the ‘goodness’ of human kind is a bit jaded, but time has taught me that humans predominantly still play the ‘survival game’ and that building up wealth is ingrained in our psyche and that once attained at ‘extreme’ levels’ such a stance is as difficult to fight as that of ‘extreme’ poverty.’

So are we going to see a reaction to Oxfam’s statement? I doubt it, except one that tries to deflect attention from the top 100, and that they can continue to build up their power and positions.