Wednesday, April 08, 2009

oxfam's poverty

Oxfam says life for the fifth of the UK's population living in poverty is set to worsen because of the recession. In a report, Close to Home - UK Poverty and the Economic Downturn, it calls on the government to help the poor. 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty, 22% of the population.

The government identifies "the poor" as those living below 60 percent of average income. But, crucially, from the standpoint of the dominant ideology, this still retains the assumption that the poor constitute only a minority and, consequently, that the majority have reason to be grateful for not being included amongst their number.

But, in truth, that majority is impoverished. It is impoverished insofar as it has no other option than to sell its working abilities to those who monopolise the means of living and whose conspicuous wealth must irresistibly provide the very yardstick by which that poverty will be starkly exposed.

This may not be the poverty of material destitution. But if the measure of a human being consists in the accumulation of material possessions to which he or she may claim the, by that token, we are demeaned. And, ultimately, it is in this devaluation of our human worth—not simply in the fact of material inequality but in the meaning this society attaches to it—that we may glimpse the very essence of this poverty.

" A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal of even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls." - Marx - Wage , Labour and Capital

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