This quote from one of the blogs I follow for my work seems pertinent to our discussion on poverty and population:
In her remarkable new book about life in a Mumbai slum, Katherine Boo, a New Yorker staffer, concludes that the world’s unequal societies don’t explode into violent insurrection because poor people pick on other poor people, not the rich. Just as the wealth flowing into India has yet to trickle down to its very poorest (though it has already lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty), the troubles of the poor leave the better off unaffected. Hundreds of Muslims died in riots in 2002 because poor Hindus expressed their frustrations at day-to-day life against equally poor Muslims. In 1992, when similar riots spread across India, it was the poorest towns and neighbourhoods that became war zones. The nice bits of town remained relatively peaceful.
The rich prey on the poor. Not every single individual rich person, of course; but many of them, and the system as a whole. To increase their personal wealth, some people, some companies – and some countries – prey on those who are poor. But more than this, the poor prey on the poor. For example, the US Bureau of Justice has released statistics that show those at the bottom end of the household income scale are three times more likely to be burgled than those at the top end – those who have the least to lose are most likely to lose it. They’re also four to five times more likely to be assaulted. The same holds true from Mumbai to Durban to Sydney to Hong Kong. The poor prey on the poor (possibly because it saves the cost of a bus fare).
Of course, the rich are foolish if they think that the troubles of the poor will never affect them.
In 1959, Morris West wrote a book called ‘Children of the Sun’ about poverty in Naples. He predicted that, if the rich did not heed the dire state of the poor, they would need armed guards to accompany their children to school, and would in effect end up living in gilded prisons, terrified of their own countrymen. He was ignored.
Witness what has happened in the last forty years in Italy: kidnappings, murders, gang wars… not just of the criminal classes as is usually the case at the moment in New Zealand, but of those whose lives of privilege made them targets of envy.
Social justice for all is not just a ‘nice’ thing to strive for; not just a piece of Catholic rhetoric (and suspect liberal Catholic rhetoric at that). Social justice is not just obeying the Gospel command to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ – though we haven’t obeyed that command without social justice. Social justice is enlightened self-interest; by helping others to live in dignity, we help ourselves.