Two weeks ago I joined members of the Kaitaia Transition Town group and the public in viewing a documentary called The End of Poverty. The film gave a brief history of colonialism and the move since the Second World War to neo-colonialism, whereby countries gain political independence while remaining financially dependent on the World Bank and private bank loans. There were some poignant images and sub-titled interviews with people in places such as Bolivia and Kenya who continue to be subjected to systems designed to keep them in poverty. Did you know that Potosi, South America’s richest mine, has been responsible for 8 million deaths? Clearly, human lives are expendable when the wealth of the West is at stake.

I was really struck by the example of the sale of Bolivia’s assets to private concerns. This is exactly what we continue to do in New Zealand. Bolivians spoke of the sale of their airline (New Zealand has sold and bought back her national airline and the National Party is determined to sell part of it again), railways, telecommunications and even water. Water was the last straw as increasingly marginalized Bolivians were unable to pay the costs of even the most basic living. Indigenous people, despite centuries of brainwashing by missionaries, still considered water to be the ‘blood of the Earth.’ At this point the silent majority suddenly opened their mouths, in some cases put their bodies on the line, and forced the government to re-nationalize water.

The modern mantra of privatisation has been chanted since the 1980s. In the same time we in New Zealand have watched this previously prosperous mostly middle class country go further into debt while the gap between rich and poor widens. When will we learn that the model of privatization of even education and health care is not in the best interests of the average tax payer?

 

Speaking of taxes, the film spoke of how the world’s rich place trillions of dollars in tax-free havens while the middle class and the poor shoulder most of the costs of government spending. It was calculated that even if the wealthy only paid 20% of the taxes on their income, poverty could be eliminated world-wide. For that matter, if only 5% of the U.S. military budget were diverted to truly humanitarian projects such as clean water and adequate housing poverty could be eliminated globally.

So it seems obvious that all that is needed to eliminate poverty is the will to eliminate poverty. Simply put, the rich need to learn to share. Anyone reading this is rich, given that access to the internet is a privilege rather than a necessity. From my years of wandering the globe with a backpack it became clear that those who were most generous had the least to give. Maybe the rest of us can learn from them.

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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com

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