That’s one of the take-home factoids in a new Oxfam report released recently about growing inequality in our world.
Wait! Don’t go! Here’s a funny thing about a giraffe.
We cool? Stick with me for a moment? I promise later there will be cute pictures of animals with strawberries.
For now, let’s consider what the report says. There are more billionaires now than ever. Certainly more than when the global economy took a nose-dive in 2008. This is important, not because we should all hate that some people are doing so well financially, but because, in order to make that happen, so many more people are having to do badly. To suffer, in fact.
And I know. Inequality, poverty, all the suffering in the world are not exactly what I want to be thinking about every day. Even those of us who have, at some point, become activists, converted to the cause of changing the world, if we’re honest, sometimes find it all a bit boring.
As Christians, most of us know that poverty, in a world where some people have enough to waste, is ‘a stench in the nostrils of God’, as I once heard a preacher describe it. It’s the kind of thing that got Amos and James pretty furious.
But here’s why: because we think of it as something to be sad about, an issue we can’t do anything about. If that’s the case, of course we’re bored. Yeah, the world sucks. I know. What you gonna do?
If that’s true, if the best we can do is occasionally give to charity (not so much that it actually prevents us spending on anything we want, mind) and buy Fairtrade chocolate, then talking about inequality is boring, like talking about how you wish it wasn’t winter or how annoying hipsters are is boring.
What we should be doing is the equivalent of punching a hipster*. Of changing the weather. There are things we can do – things that may not make a difference if we do them on our own, but which make a huge difference if we do them in numbers. And the Church, my friend, has numbers. It just has to start believing or caring enough to make them count.
So here are three things you can do that will make inequality less boring:
But first, a picture of a tortoise with a strawberry. A promise is a promise.
Well-meaning people will tell you there’s no point. These people are children, and voting is for adults. Not voting doesn’t model anything to anyone. If your vote, which actually gets counted, doesn’t make a difference, why would your eating a sandwich make one? Not voting changes nothing except making it more likely that laws you will despise will get made, wars you disapprove of will be waged and the power of corporations will grow and make the rich richer on the backs of the poor. All this will happen because when you had a chance to try to make a difference, you decided to make a statement that nobody heard.
Ah, but the politicians are all corrupt! Grow up. Refusing to vote because your exact wishes are not codified in the manifesto of an electable party only makes one statement: I’m special, why won’t you all listen to me?! Similarly, refusing to vote because ‘it makes no difference’ shows all the democratic insight of an ISIS footsoldier. Sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes more people want something else to happen. That’s sort of the point.
The laws that govern trade, the minimum wage, taxation and a thousand other key factors that determine how much inequality exists in the world are made by governments and political parties. Christians should be involved in the ones that care about the poor and building up their resolution to change the world. But failing that, the least we can do is vote.
- Consume differently
This isn’t complicated. Don’t buy something that caused someone misery to make. This is worth doing half an hour’s research. Shop local. Shop independent rather than at megabrands that make a handful of people rich. Shop at co-ops and charity shops and buy products that don’t enslave people or steal their resources.
- Consume less
This is simpler, harder and more important. Buy fewer things. Buy them less often. Your demand for goods to be available to you at a rate you can afford is directly responsible for people around the world working as slaves to make the products you love. Be content. Covet less. Define yourself by something other than what you own.
- [FREE THREADS BONUS THING!] Dedicate your life to making the world more just
It’s not for all of us, but it is for some of us. One life is a wonderful thing to dedicate to being a missionary, aid worker or campaigner for a better world.
Feeling guilty is almost as useless as feeling bored, by the way. And this pig with a strawberry doesn’t want you to feel it. This is a journey. All you need to do is start it.
*Obviously punching hipsters isn’t nice. And is entirely uncalled for. And probably motivated out of jealousy and exclusion. And definitely not because they start things like this.