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Poverty a result of skewed distribution of resources

Published: 
Monday, September 7, 2015

Whether it be the 52,000 children from Latin America who annually attempt to sneak into the USA, or the mother clinging to her baby while lying on a train line in Hungary, hoping to get to Germany, or the hundreds of thousands fleeing across Africa or to Europe, this is an age of frightening flight.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) makes a clinical distinction between refugees and migrants. Refugees are people fleeing from violent persecution, usually of a political, ethnic/tribal nature. Migrants are those who are looking for greater economic prospects abroad.

In the instance of refugees, they are protected by international law and cannot (at least should not) be sent back home as their lives could be in danger. In the instance of migrants, the national laws of countries control who gets to stay. Often those seeking to be allowed to stay fall into both the refugee and migrant status.

In such situations the governments of the receiving countries are perplexed. Understandably many governments would prefer to define them as migrants and so be able to return them to the country of origin. What are a few of the common factors behind these crises whether they originate in Latin America, Africa, parts of South-East Asia and right here in the Caribbean? 

“While population has exploded exponentially, unfortunately the resources on our planet are finite. The eco term for this is “carrying capacity” which is the maximum population that an environment and its resources can be sustained indefinitely,” contends the Gainsville Coins magazine on population and the environment. 

Inhumane persecution by war mongers, hatred of one group for the other, entrenched hate going back generations, stereotypical views of one group, one over the other are amongst the reasons for the flight of the refugees.

Religious and cultural differences, one group seeking to ascend over the other, a phenomenon well known here, economic and political systems (especially those oppressive and dictatorial political systems that deprive people of freedom of choice) which create greater inequity within societies and across countries and several other matters are undoubtedly also amongst the reasons for the refugee/migration movements of the day.

Military, economic and social domination which emerged after the Industrial Revolution of Europe and its accompanying racist assumptions of superiority and the so-called “white man’s burden” to civilise and socialise non-whites played a significant part in the deliberate underdevelopment of Africa, Asia, Latin America (native populations of the Americas) and the Caribbean.   

Raw materials were ripped out of these continents and countries by European exploration and domination; such actions seriously disfigured the face of these continents and blocked the natural progress which would have been made by the natives of these continents/countries. Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains good explanatory literature on the subject.

Deprived of their natural heritage in resources and the ability to develop in accordance with their human progression and socio-cultural environment, large segments of the populations of the conquered countries today find it difficult to cope. So too did the brutality and naked violence (at times rationalised by philosophy and religious dogma) associated with the intervention by Euro-American society spawn a culture of violence in the colonial outposts. 

It explains in part the rise of violent dictators in the former colonial world. At least the violent intervention of European civilisation in the search for raw materials enhanced in the “natives” whatever pre-disposition there was to violence and domination. The natives learnt that to get ahead violence over competitors for resources was the route to achieving the objective.

Understandably and evidentially, large numbers of the refugees/migrants are streaming away from the violent and unproductive culture of their countries in the south to what are perceived to be the proverbial “lands of milk and honey” situated in Europe and North America; more recently to a few prosperous countries in East Asia.  

When the UNCHR says population growth has outstripped the carrying capacity of environments, it is an explanation which does not deal with the exploitative nature of accumulation that is spread in the industrial continents and countries of the north. It is not simply that the world population has gone beyond seven billion and so people are outstripping resources; it is that there is serious inequity in the distribution of resources. 

That is well illustrated by the reality of almost three billion people having to live on US$2 per day compared to the tens of thousands of multi-millionaires and hundreds of billionaires in the industrial world and the concomitant tale of one billion people who lack access to clean water and the two billion do not have proper sanitation facilities.

The UN initiative, the Millennium Goals, is about achieving greater balance in the distribution and allocation of resources. It is an acknowledgement that the skewed distribution/allocation of resources has been responsible for widespread poverty and dehumanisation of peoples of the south. 
Economist, Jeffrey Sachs, chairman of that commission which developed the Millennium Goals, has argued that greater equity could be achieved given the resources on the planet in relation to the world population.

It is not surprising that Donald Trump, he who goes to depressed countries to host his beauty pageants to make tens of millions, is so virulent against Mexican immigrants; he is afraid of the immigrants re-taking portions of what industrial economies have pillaged from the developing world.

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