Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

(yes, I'm aware it's not quite 15 October yet. I'll be out all day tomorrow and the day after so rather early than not at all)

In the past couple of weeks, I think I've posted enough about how veganism is one possible solution against world hunger, how important it it to buy fair trade products where possible, about living on a budget and wasting food.

I'm not going to lecture today, I just want people to stop a moment and reconsider their standards.

Now that the international stock market and economy has been crashing for the last weeks, people are worried about losing their savings, not being able to afford a second car, not having their weeknight take-outs and so on.

The official definition of "poverty" in Germany (yes, we have official stuff for everything) is when you people live on less than ~730 € a month (per person). I lived on far less while growing up and also when I first moved out into my own apartment.

In fact, I'm not that far above that figure right now, and I live in my own place in the city centre, can afford good food, a travel every now and then, buying books and clothes, going to gigs and pretty much everything I'd like to.

Growing up, I was one of the poorest kids at school. Which meant I didn't get fancy designer teen clothes and my family could not afford to go on holiday except for visiting relatives. I was the only kid in my grade whose parents didn't own a car.
Still, we had clothing on our backs and plenty of food in the house at all times. We even all had our own TVs and computers. We had proper health care and social insurance.
Is this "poverty"?

Classmates kept pitying me for the fact that I started working part-time when I was 13 so I could pay for trips, clothes (on top of what was necessary; my mom paid the essential, but teenage girls...) and (gasp!) my own Internet connection and mobile phone.

I get incredibly angry when people moan about how expensive things are yet they can pay International travels, cars and fancy gadgets.
Could it be, that our Western world has lost its healthy views on what's "normal"?

Let's have a look at this neat statistic:
(many of you will know it already, but it's so striking I felt the need to post it today)

If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

The village would have 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans, 8 Latin Americans, 5 from the USA and Canada, and 1 from the South Pacific

51 would be male, 49 would be female

82 would be non-white; 18 white

67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian

80 would live in substandard housing

67 would be unable to read

50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation

33 would be without access to a safe water supply

39 would lack access to improved sanitation

24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do
have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)

7 people would have access to the Internet

1 would have a college education

1 would have HIV

2 would be near birth; 1 near death

5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth; all 5 would be US citizens

33 would be receiving --and attempting to live on-- only 3% of the income of “the village”

How poor are you?

(the original version can be found here, this is an update and abbreviated one)


Bex said...

I hadn't seen the stats posted that way, it's really interesting.
I too grew up without much money but we did ok and now I don't have a ton of money but I have a decent place to live and I walk to work because who needs the added expense of a car you don't really need to use? I do spend half of my day listening to people complain about prices increasing (I work in a chocolate shop) and I think "well the price of chocolate is increasing and it's not exactly a necessity" but I don't say that of course.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but you are in Germany, where being poor is in ways easier than in the United States. In the United States the poor do not have access to health care, mass transit, sick days or vacation. The social care network here is for the bare minimums, if that.