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The horrendous lie of our generation is the one that poverty is being reduced

There is more poverty than ever before, and there are diabolical efforts to mask this, writes Gerry Georgatos

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08 February 2018

There is more poverty than ever before, with both absolute and relative poverty guaranteed to accelerate. The horrendous lie of our generation is that poverty is being reduced around the world. In fact it is increasing but there are diabolical efforts to mask this.

Abominable propaganda demands that we should believe that the majority of the world's poor are being lifted from poverty, and that in generations to come there will be less absolute poverty. Nearly half the world's humanity lives on less than $2.50 per day, and one billion people cannot read or write.

The World Bank sets the international poverty line. In 2015 the poverty line was revised, and defines a person to be in extreme poverty if they live on less than 1.90 international dollars (int.-$) per day.

This poverty measurement, based on the monetary value of a person's consumption, was set at someone living on or less than $1.90 per day. [Ed. In Australia the poverty line is 50 per cent of median income, for a single adult that is AUD$60.90 per day].

Billions live in poverty, tens of millions flee as refugees, however the majority of the rest live depleted lives, corralled in human misery, drudgery, and suffering. Yet there are those in society, including among academics, who suggest that their economic poverty is not a sufficient measure. That's because we want to sell a narrative that this world is not as grim as it really is.

If the poverty line was measured at $2.50 per day then more than half of the world's population lives below the poverty line. If the poverty line was measured at $10 per day then more than seven out of 10 people live below the poverty line.

Nine out of 10 people are affected by either absolute or relative poverty, and though median wages are on the increase, the gap between the majority and the sliver at the top of humankind is outrageously widening.

If poverty was genuinely decreasing, then the world's suicide rates would be decreasing, yet the global suicide toll is increasing. On average, more people suicide than the combined death toll from wars, civil strife, murders and vehicular fatalities.

On average, officially one million people suicide each year. The poverty narrative and suicide intersect.

Historically, and contemporaneously, the majority of humanity has lived humbly while the elite enjoyed living conditions sponsored by an excessive accumulation of resources. But today extreme poverty, absolute and relative poverty, is majorly visible; it is an unavoidable experience even in the most affluent nations.

Industrialisation and technological advances have been upheld as increasing the share of people in wealth, in improving public health, and in improving life expectancy. But then why do seven in 10 people live on or less than $10 a day? Why does more than half the world live on less than $2.50 per day?
Why are one billion people unable to read or write?

The decrease in poverty rates is because of a tampering of figures, calculations, and premises.

It serves the interests of muddle minded vainglorious researchers and policy-makers to deny poverty even in the face of poverty. These researchers and policy makers serve bureaucrats and governments who are managed by the forces that created extreme, absolute and relative poverty.

Equality is a pipedream. In the deviations from addressing poverty uncompromisingly we sell minimum rights for human rights, we sell calorific requirements for baseline living, for less than what are in effect half-lives and we sell portrayals of satisfaction levels among the poorest as happiness. There has never been a war on poverty, rather only a mass deceit. We spend more on the industries set up to respond to disadvantage than we actually spend on ending disadvantage.

Despite the majority of humanity living in poverty, relatively the world's media reports very little on poverty, reports predominately ridiculous positive stories from within the cesspools of despair, deprivation and drudgery. There is a disinterest in telling the truth about the extensiveness of the world's poverty.

Imagine if you had to live on only a few dollars a day?

The World Bank says that in 1980 nearly 50 per cent of the world's people lived in absolute poverty and that in 2010 the absolute poor declined to 15 per cent, and by 2015 to 11 per cent.

I argue that more than two billion children live in poverty and although UNICEF states that 22,000 children tragically die each day due to poverty I estimate that it's 50,000 deaths daily.

Australia is not spared. The increasing poverty is harrowingly visible; the homeless in the commercial precincts of capital cities and large towns but nevertheless there is a hostile denial to acknowledging the extensiveness of poverty, absolute and relative, in the Australian context.

The majority of Australians are unemployed or underemployed but we are told that the jobless are only five or six per cent. Scoundrels produce data from inauthentic starting points and all of a sudden not all the unemployed are counted.

If you work one hour per week you are defined as employed. If you are not registered with Centrelink as looking for work and completing the number of job searches required then you are not counted as unemployed.

If Australia were to authentically redefine its socioeconomic staring points then we would be told that at least six million Australians live in poverty. There are two million Australian children living in poverty rather than the 740,000 children we are officially told, or allowed to believe.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics underestimates Australia's homelessness –instead of 110,000 it's closer to 300,000 homeless Australians. The average age of Australians is 37 years and in the twilight years of today-s 30-somethings, they will know this nation with a million homeless, a nation racked with poverty, and of a world where no government will be able to hide the extensiveness of poverty and its sufferings.

They may remember that they were lied to, that the empty streets of our senses tomorrow, the chaos and horrors, were of makings borne, perpetuated today.

* Gerry Georgatos is a prolific writer on suicide prevention; he is a suicide prevention, prison reform and anti-poverty researcher and advocate. He is also the Director Humanitarian Projects with the non-tertiary Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights. He is a member of national projects to further develop suicide prevention, and wellbeing and education programs in prisons.

Gerry's research has a focus on trauma recovery and restorative approaches. He works firsthand with the homeless, impoverished, incarcerated. He is also the Lead Critical Response Support Advocate for the National Indigenous Critical Response Service (NICRS).

You may be affected by your experience and need to speak with someone or access support services. If you, or someone you know, needs support, talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or relative, your GP or a counsellor, or you can access one of the following services: Lifeline 24-hour national telephone crisis counselling service on 13 11 14, online counselling service, further information and service finder lifeline.org.au or chat online at beyondblue.org.au

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