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How many ways can you finish the sentence that begins:

“If only the poor knew…”?

If only the poor knew how to make money?

If only the poor knew how well off they are?

If only the poor would get off their butts and work harder?

How about this:

If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.

“Actor and comedian Chris Rock made this astute statement during a 2014 interview with New York magazine, referring to the yawning gap between rich and poor. In so doing, he stumbled upon a key challenge in the study of inequality:

What’s the best way to measure it?

Most inequality studies have focused on income – measures of which are widely available. However, being rich is not about a single year of earnings but rather about the accumulation of wealth over time. In the past, quantifying that has been tricky.

Is Chris Rock right that Americans just aren’t aware of the levels of disparity in their society?

The wealthy would probably prefer we stay in the dark about how rich they are, presumably to avoid the aforementioned riots. People like me, who study the topic, however, are always looking for more data and better and more accurate ways to measure the rich-poor gap. And while I’m not one to promote violence in the streets, I do believe it’s important for citizens to be fully aware of the levels of disparity in their society. The most revealing way to do this, in my view, is by looking at wealth inequality.”

From BBC “How rich are the rich? If only you knew.”

One way to view the stark wealth inequality at a glance is to see aerial images by drone photographer Johnny Miller that reveal the dramatic divide between rich and poor in cities in South Africa, Mexico and India. Here is one image:

The Issue: Disparity

Still with me?

What to do, what to do?!

Communism nowhere on earth has ever flattened out the disparity.

Marxism wants to redistribute the wealth… but ends up redistributing the poverty.

Capitalism hopes a healthy economy is “a rising tide that will lift all boats“… but tends to only lift all yachts.

Charity is an uneven equalizer; it is entirely dependant on the good graces and generosity of those who have something to give and feel a sense of sharing a bit of it. Philanthropists tend to get a lot of credit when they give: even 1% of a lot is more than 10% of a little. Charity has a way of keeping people in their place when it’s meted out in bits and pieces.

Riots? Well, everyone gets poorer and poorer with those. Honest hardworking local stores get vandalized, and nothing systemic is actually changed. I think it’s safe to conclude: the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has been a bust. We all got on with getting to work while being thoroughly disgusted with bankrupt and bankrupting bankers & executives continuing to get their bonuses.

How do you address disparity where you are?

When you can’t change the system directly, change it indirectly:

Change what you do.

Change your attitude to wealth and materialism.

Change how you see the poor; how you identify with the disparity.

Oh, and yes, continue to work for justice in all it’s forms. We’re not off the hook from doing our best individually and collectively to change inherently unfair systems.

If only the Poor knew there’s more to life:

In fact… the poor usually do know there’s more to life than materialism.  I guess we wished the rich knew that too.

What good is it if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:26

What do you know about true value anyways?

Next week see “Ubuntu”.