I am not poor. In fact, by any sensible measure, I am a very, very long way from it. If you’re reading this then the odds are pretty good that you, too, are a fair way from poor. The technology that mediates between us all but guarantees it.
Three-and-some years ago I took part, with thousands upon thousands of others, in the makepovertyhistory march through the streets of Edinburgh. I’m sorry to say that by now my pride at being there is tempered by the fact that most of what I remember about that weekend was the carnival atmosphere. Surely that’s the wrong thing to recall? It was easy for us to participate; we were living in Edinburgh and it cost us little more than a couple of quid for the bus into town. We know others who travelled from all over the UK and beyond, determined to make a statement.
Perhaps that’s worth remembering? 225,000-odd people were motivated enough about an issue to ride for hours in ferries and coaches.
That was more than three years ago. Money is very much in the news again as our credit-based economy starts to judder a little. It’s been said, I can’t remember where, that most of us are only a month or two’s pay cheque away from poverty. That’s probably true — I know what our finances are like.
It hasn’t happened yet.
We’re still rich: we have a roof over our heads, cars in the drive, mobile phones, laptops, games consoles… I don’t understand what it’s like to not have food, shelter, warmth. I’ve never been there, and I hope I never will. Not everyone can say that, and they’re not all too far from home, either.
What can one person do? Little things, I guess. Give money, consume responsibly and thoughtfully, campaign loudly and persistently, learn about how the world works and how the world doesn’t work, learn about what goes on in your own village/town/city. You’ll be surprised.
When you learn, please let yourself be moved.
(If you’re in Northern Ireland, I can point you to some folks who are always glad of a hand. I have the privilege of getting to spend time with women and men who are completely dedicated to tackling the the flaws and consequences of how this society works.)