Voice From the Back
Billionaires And Poverty
Millions of workers throughout the world struggle to survive but it is not all doom and gloom in capitalism–some people are doing exceptionally well. ‘The population of dollar billionaires across the globe has increased by a net 155 to 2,325 in the past 12 months, according to the latest census….’ (Times, 18 September). The Singapore-based Wealth-X, a consultancy that tracks the number of the extremely rich has come up with the following figures for billionaires: US 571, China 190, UK 130, Germany 123 and Russia 114.
One of the myths that religious leaders often like to support is that religious people are not concerned about material things and only spiritual values are of any worth. Despite this some of them do not too badly when it comes to money. ‘Topping the Forbes list is Bishop David Oyedepo with an estimated net worth of US$150m (about R1.6bn). He founded the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry in Nigeria which is Africa’s largest worship centre with a seating capacity of 50,000. Oyedepo owns four private jets, a publishing company, a university, and a high school’ (Sowetan, 18 September). To prove that Oyedepo is not unique – according to the United States entertainment conduit ‘MonteOz’, TB Joshua is only the tenth richest pastor in the world.
An Awful System
Everyone is aware of the poverty of many children in countries in Africa and Asia but what is not as well known is the plight of many children in the USA. ‘The persistent rise of child poverty in Massachusetts –confirmed by last week’s census figures for 2013 –is the result of costly day care and housing, the proliferation of low-wage jobs, and a labor market that can be difficult for young parents to break into, according to specialists in the field. Nearly one in six children in Massachusetts was growing up in poverty as of last year, data from the US Census Bureau show; in households with single mothers, it was one in four’ (Boston Globe, 22 September). It speaks volumes for the awfulness of capitalism that such poverty exists in one of the most advanced countries in the world.
A PC site specialising on food issues has come up with some alarming statistics. ‘Maidenhead town centre is a postcard-perfect vision of dreary British consumerism with its rows of coffee shops, Greggs bakeries, chain clothing stores and mobile phone shops. You’d be forgiven, then, for thinking a queue swelling at 9.20 AM on the high street was for some sort of flash sale. In fact, it was the queue for the local food bank. There’s been a staggering 163 percent rise in foodbank use compared to the previous financial year, and over 900,000 adults and children have received three days emergency food and support. Despite signs of economic recovery, the poor have seen their income becoming more and more squeezed. More people are relying on foodbanks than ever before (MUNCHIES, 22 September). So while politicians boast of an economic recovery this is the reality for many workers.
Fantasy And Reality
From time to time the world’s media turns its attention to such issues as climate change and the environment. We have such attention at present. ‘World leaders including US President Barack Obama are holding a summit on climate change at the United Nations. The aim at the New York meeting is to galvanise member states to sign up to a comprehensive new global climate agreement at talks in Paris next year. ‘Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Now is the time for action,’ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ahead of the summit’ (BBC News, 23 September). After millions of words are spoken and pious resolutions are passed we can confidently predict the outcome will be the same as in the past – nothing! As long as the profit motive is the driving force of capitalism the environment is of secondary concern.
Meanwhile, Back On Earth
With India successfully placing a satellite in orbit around Mars local politicians were not long in basking in the glory. Narendra Modi, the prime minister, visited the Space Research Organisation and declared that India had a great scientific future. ‘While Mr Modi is eager to use the success of the mission to trumpet India’s economic and scientific prowess as a rising global power, critics said that the mission was a waste of money in a nation where 43 percent of children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished and 33 per cent of its 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity’ (Times, 25 September). Becoming a global power in a capitalist world where might is right is a higher priority.