Poverty can also come to people suddenly and unexpectedly and even the richest amongst us can suddenly find themselves in desperate need unless they have support.
All it takes is an accident, illness, or natural disaster and all our riches can disappear without trace.
"There but for the Grace of God go I" is only too true for many of us.
Riches and poverty go hand in hand around the world and the same issues of relative wealth are found between neighbours, businesses, relatives, regions and nations.
It is nothing new and the history of mankind was formed by stories of those who have much and those who have nothing.
Slavery was not confined to the African Nations, though some would like us to believe that it was, for the rich in most nations have treated the poor as their servants for centuries and there are reports of hidden "slavery" even in major western countries to this day.
Nor is it a matter of race because there are poor in all nations and they are exploited by those who want more wealth even though they have riches beyond the average person's wildest dreams. The rich did not achieve their wealth by accident. Much is inherited using carefully devised laws that ensure that the truly wealthy maintain their position in society above the rest. They have been able to ensure continued control of the law and the politicians in order to maintain their privileged positions in society. For others fame is the key to opening the doors to wealth beyond their dreams and they can then join the ranks of the ruling classes where they actually have the opportunity to influence change.
Such wealth does not come from nowhere. Someone has to pay.
Figures have long shown that the share of wealth between individuals in society is far from even. Some 95% of the wealth of western countries is in the hands of the top 5% of the population. With earnings too a graph of relative income will show little difference on the scale for 95% of the population whether they be unemployed or University Professors but the graph goes off the scale for the highest earning 5%.
Such is the competition for the scraps at the bottom of the earnings league that attempts by unions to ensure that skills are rewarded financially when compared to the "unskilled" workers below them have virtually brought entire nations to their knees in strike actions. These battles were for scraps at the tables of the rich.
It is a numbers game. There are many millions on very low wages both within nations and around the world. There are comparatively few very wealthy people and they do not want to join the rest in poverty. Their problem is that without the rest of the population to fund their lifestyles, and ensure that they could eat and travel, the rich would not survive. The old world learned that lesson centuries ago and achieved a balance of mutual respect that ensured a reasonably stable society and suppressed dissent but attitudes are changing and the poor now have expectations and feel that they have equal rights.
Unfortunately they will never even achieve "National Average" wages because as their level increases the average rises ahead of them because of those increases.
The only way that the poor will improve their lot is for the rich to agree to take cuts but the current trends are in the opposite direction and the gaps between rich and poor are widening with every passing year. Resentment grows as the rich call for ever more cuts in the taxes they pay and the poor face higher bills and worse services as a result.
Compounding the resentment the majority find that their health services and pension provisions are also cut as politicians allow fund managers to utilise the funds that were supposedly there to provide security in the event of retirement due to injury or old age. The hard fought for workers rights of the early 20th Century are being eroded rapidly in the new millennium. Corrupt practices are often used to prevent workers gaining compensation for injury at work and, as benefit values are cut, this throws them into poverty which they know will last for the rest of their lives. This often results in family breakdown which in itself has considerable costs to the nation.
The influence of the rich company owners over political policy is obvious and it is all the more worrying because many of those companies have themselves been taken over by multi-national forces that are outside of the normal tax laws and which owe no allegiance to any country. As a result entire manufacturing processes are moved out of countries that observe worker rights, minimum wage levels and environmental protection laws, to countries where they are less regulated and cheap labour is available.
The power that these companies wield enables them to bring undue influence to bear on the poorer nations until they surrender to the demands in order to obtain work and income for their people. The opportunities for corruption to influence decisions is obvious but the people who pay the ultimate price are the poor of both nations.
The concept of "Free Trade" is simply a means for the multi-nationals to destroy their less powerful competitors and to prevent the poorer nations from having the ability to protect their own markets from, cheap or inferior imports. With it comes the danger of importing dangerous goods and being forced to grow untested Genetically Modified crops.
Many reports have exposed the damage to human health and to the environment caused by pesticides and other chemicals. In the majority of cases it is the poorer members of society who suffer the effects and to a greater degree in poorer countries.
It has been known that grain with excessive residues of toxic insecticides has been exported to Third World countries for human consumption.
Deaths and serious neurological injuries from pesticide exposures are numbered in the tens of thousands and chemicals that are banned are often unlawfully imported for use in those countries.
Calls are now being made to reintroduce DDT for the control of malaria even though more effective, potentially safer, and less environmentally damaging methods are available.
Sometimes it seems as if the people of the Third World nations are being used as experimental animals to assist the advancement of science and the development of GM crops that can act as contraceptives appear to be part of a plan to keep those nations under control. The hidden advantage to the pharmaceutical industry is seen in the possibilities for those with the available funds to pay for treatments to counter the effects of those hidden chemicals.
Vaccine research has a captive population in these areas where experimental techniques could already be in use without any of the subjects being aware of taking part.
There are serious health issues each with an urgent need to be resolved but there is a suspicion that those health issues are a direct result of the poverty and the abuse of the people and their rights.
Is it cheaper to treat disease with drugs or to dig closed sewage systems that will end the risk of disease and reduce the risk caused by insects?
The Western world faced similar problems 200 years ago.
The Poverty in the Third World is simply an extreme example of the very same problems found in almost every country in the world. The rich look after the rich and the poor have to survive the best that they can or die in the attempt. It is morally wrong but it will need a global change in attitude to change the fundamental problems which if they do not change will inevitably destroy life on Earth.
The Earth has a finite capacity. It cannot continue to sustain ever-greater numbers of humans without destruction of the environment and other life forms upon which we rely. The rich need increasing numbers of people to pay their taxes and to maintain their living standards but the more people there are on this Earth the greater will be the problems we face.
Famine has two or three possible causes. Overpopulation without the ability to pay for imports, crop failure without the ability to pay for imports, and deliberate political policy through war, commercial pressures, or incompetence. Sending temporary food aid only serves to undermine the local economy and postpone suffering but it is essential if people are not to starve in the short term. The only long-term solution is the natural reduction in population size and density, exactly as nature intended. All life on Earth was controlled by food availability and other environmental factors until man gained the power to upset that balance by artificial means.
We cannot assume that we have the right to reproduce indefinitely.
World population grows but our reserves of food in case of crop failure are dangerously low.
In the UK politicians actually say that farmers should no longer be growing food, as it is not needed because it can be imported - often from countries where the indigenous population exists on a starvation diet. This madness is accepted at the same time as we insist on greater immigration to boost the population and compound the danger.
Those same politicians are advising the Third World and attempt to force GM crops on them after having allowed their own successful agriculture based on local seed production to be destroyed by the multi-nationals that then have complete control over their crops.
Third World leaders appear to have been easily tempted and many are simply puppets of the West supported by arms on the condition that they follow orders. Corruption is rife and the leaders are often obscenely wealthy as the people starve and their valuable assets are sold cheaply to Western consumers. Some face rebellion and the West helps to suppress the people and profits from arming both sides in civil wars or stands by and watches as the innocent people in Africa have their lives, livelihoods and homes destroyed by evil dictators.
Live Aid, the Tsunami Appeal, and now Live8, demonstrate that the ordinary people in Western cultures have a deep compassion for those who are suffering but the people can do nothing if the politicians refuse to act. The politicians are controlled by big business and it will be interesting to see what action, if any, is taken by the leaders of the G8 nations.
We are part of one human race, no matter what some religious leaders might have us believe.
We live on one planet and we have limited resources and a fragile environment.
We can only hope that our political leaders will have the courage to take the necessary steps to ensure that the human race can co-exist with other interdependent life forms on this planet in ways that are sustainable and which our ancestors understood only too well.
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