Poverty is not a Statistic

It is very hard to measure poverty. Poverty is not a statistic. It is a state of being. Figures are misleading but it is clear that some people are poorer than others and some places have many more poor people than others.

Statistics that use poverty as a relative measure, rather than as an absolute state, seem to show that Tower Hamlets is the poorest borough in the land. Poplar, Limehouse, Bow and Bethnal Green have very high levels of “child” poverty.  Of course child poverty does not exist without there being parent poverty too.  Tower Hamlets is an interesting case, and not just because it happens to be the place where I was brought up. That part of the East End of London has traditionally been the place where immigrants (like my parents) were received, or perhaps where they were placed. Initially the docks that existed at East India and Blackwall brought people of many hues of skin and from many exotic places, and many of them settled there. A hundred and fifty years ago Poplar’s population was six times larger than it is today. It was stuffed with people.

Sixty years ago Poplar was littered with bomb sites. Its population was slowly moving east, where there was work, as the docks started their slow and steady decline.

Today if you walk around Poplar from every corner you will usually get a sight of the massive buildings around Canary Wharf. These glass and concrete mansions are the places where money is worshiped and the great God Mammon praised. The occupants of these palaces count their blessings in pounds, euros, dollars and yen and amidst the poverty that surrounds these palaces manipulate and scheme to increase their blessings at the expense of those who live in humble dwellings that surround their mansions.

For those worshippers who decide to live close to where they perform their rituals, there are safe gated communities which keep them apart from those who may infect them with the knowledge and experience of poverty, although the worshippers do have a ready a convenient supply of cleaners some of whom actually pay more income tax than those they serve.

I think that there will always be differences in wealth, just as there will always be differences in intelligence, morality and health from one person to another. The competitive nature of humanity makes it unavoidable that such differences will be exploited.

What rankles is that the bankers of Canary Wharf believe themselves to be better people and more deserving of wealth than those who live close by to them. Our society enables those bankers to create wealth for themselves by taking what little others may have. That has been the process of wealth redistribution over the past twenty years and it is exemplified in the communities of Tower Hamlets.

3 Responses

  1. People imagine a wealthy elite living in their ivory towers, cackling evilly and rubbing their hands together with glee every day as they figure out new ways of taking that last penny from the peasants, but I don’t think they are like this. I don’t believe that this enters their minds at all, they are thinking of making money out of institutions which the working classes or poor people have invested in or rely upon perhaps, but I think that they think that this is an indirect consequence and does not figure in their calculations.

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