Thursday, January 02, 2014

Poverty Perspectives


I was ironing – yes, it really happens – I iron things.  The TV channel was locked into back to back episodes featuring each and every Dr Who incarnation in the right order.  I joined in somewhere towards the end of their journey.  Christopher Eccleston was throwing a shower of tiny twinkling nano-bots at a crowd in wartime England with gasmasks and yelling “Everyone lives!”

“Everybody lives!”

That might have been Dr Who’s declaration but had he watched the adverts he might have had a different perspective.  Charities were drumming up support, promising to help a catalogue of people dealing with very distressing situations. My one pound given each month could provide a child with a blanket in a refugee camp.  My two pounds could give a child a vaccination against a disease we have long conquered in the UK.  I could help an autistic child say he loves his mother. 

One appeal explained that one girl walked two hours each morning to collect water from a spring.  I had thought that water from a spring would be clean water at least, but it didn’t look clean, and there were cattle standing in the water.  The container she was filling was huge – a big yellow plastic container.  She didn’t balance it on her head and gracefully walk off into the afternoon sun.  She carried it on her back, at an awkward angle.  Bent over like a hunchback she began the two hour walk home. 

This morning I read an article in the paper. 

“More than 300,000 of Britain's poorest people live at least 1km from a free-to-use cash machine, raising questions about whether the most disadvantaged can obtain cash without paying a fee, the government's adviser on poverty has said.”

It would seem there are 269 low-income areas lacking a free machine within a 1km radius.  Most of the cash machines in the prosperous places in a city are free-to-use.  The poor, as ever, are being exploited.

“These "cash machine deserts" mean people face a fee ranging from 75p to £10 to retrieve their money via an ATM, consumer groups say.”

I thought about the young girl walking the two miles there, and two miles back, to get clean water.  It seemed so absurd that someone was complaining that someone else has to walk half a mile to get to a cash machine that didn’t charge you.  I suppose that to someone disabled or elderly walking half a mile it might seem like a two hour journey. 

I sometimes think we have lost our perspective on a lot of things.  We have a picture of poverty in our country that pales into insignificance when placed alongside poverty in other places. 

Christopher Eccleston’s shower of tiny twinkling nano-bots re-wrote damaged DNA.  There are no nano-bot showers to re-write our damaged thinking. 

It’s about time we thought clearly and honestly about things and stopped looking at them through skewed and selfish lenses.

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