Phil in Afghanistan writes about what it is like living in a country in which there are many very poor people:
On the way back to the car, the girl, with the unerring accuracy of the terminally poor, spots me again, and comes running. I give her 10 Afs. Wordlessly, she takes it and turns away.
I have just spent more than 20 times that amount on food she will likely never eat.
I thought about this as I drove home. She will never eat a fruit tart, nor lychees with cream.
… Poor people are real. I met one, gave her next to nothing and drove on. I drove on to my lychees and walnut bread.
It means nothing and it means everything. Poverty is the sum of a lot of big things, but it is also the sum of a lot of little decisions that I make every day. And because we all make such decisions, poverty has long ago become a permanent fixture on the unreachable horizon, a cause we strive to but never seriously expect to reach.
I think that girl has a right to better than that.
Phil’s right: the girl has a right to better than that. We can do better than that.
In the fight against global poverty, we live still in an era of Victoria charity – throwing a few spare pennies to the poor in the workhouse. We seem to assume, unthinkingly, that the poor (a) are in that condition partly as a consequence of their own fecklessness and (b) that there is nothing much we can do about it. Neither of these assumptions is remotely close to the truth.