For a long time, the Netherlands has been a highly egalitarian country, but inequality is very slowly starting to increase there, even though most people in the Netherlands still live – in a comparison to make you understand – with caviare and champagne for breakfast and gold taps and door handles throughout the home.
For the past fourteen years, I have been living in a country that has a huge degree of inequality, which is much worse than in all the other EU countries. Yes, all of them. I want you to know what that looks like, at the bottom. So that you can help stop the Netherlands from going into that direction too.
There is a HUGE amount of homelessness here in the UK, for mostly financial reasons.
Yes, the simple lack of sufficient income for people to support their basic needs.
You see that in countries like the US and Australia too. It includes many female older adults and also people like Manda in one of the videos below, who sustained a brain injury with associated nerve damage. (The Hanes corporation decided to help her.) Most of these people never thought in their wildest dreams that they might ever end up homeless. Among the poorest retired women are former nurses and researchers but also many former stay-at-home mothers.
One of the things it sometimes leads to in Britain is a great deal of envy or discomfort when people in poverty see someone who does not appear to be miserable or who appears to be able to support himself or herself financially. It makes them feel like something has been taken away from them, and they often focus those feelings and their energy on the person who is not miserable. As a result, that person may then be pushed into poverty as well. There are no efforts, certainly not by the British government (to the contrary), to pull people out of poverty here.
In Britain, I have learned what it is like to live without hot water, heat and electricity, to sit in your bed all day long, and walk over to a place where they provide a hot meal for you (and where they may treat you as if you are a potentially dangerous wild animal for no other reason than that you are poor). In Britain, I have seen what it is like to live in deep poverty, to stop looking toward the future because you know that you will never get out of that poverty, and become so accustomed to it that you completely forget what a life is like without poverty.
The other side of the spectrum, the crazy consumerism, the drive for higher and higher GDPs, and the accumulation of personal possessions as the only measure of one’s self-worth, the push for ever-increasing industrial production without any concern for the costs of that and the senseless of it all seems to be also pushing a lot of people into deep poverty.
The key word in many developments and environments is balance. Leading simpler lives is generally more fun than pursuing a consumerist lifestyle, but deep poverty is is just as bad as crazy consumerism. And they seem to go hand in hand.
I’ve heard someone who was spending about 6000 a month describe himself as poor. That’s crazy.
Poor, in the western world, is 6000 a year, or 8000 a year, or 2000 a year.
Poor is having no or limited access to medical care, in the western world.
Poor, in the western world, is having so little income that you have to choose between having a roof over your head and having food in your stomach or having food in your stomach and having food in your children’s stomachs.
One of the videos below features Charlotte, a young British woman who lives on one day a meal and who does not want a sandwich for lunch because eating the sandwich would make her feel hungry the next day. When you have to live on very little food, your metabolism changes, and you will want to keep your body functioning in that mode because it helps you cope. (People who want to stuff people who’ve been living on very little food for a long time, say a year or half a year or one and a half year, and get angry when they don’t want to gorge themselves are simply totally clueless. On the other hand, when your food intake fluctuates, then you will likely want to stuff yourself and may not be able to stop eating when you do get food and may eat 4 plates full of pasta and/or 6 bagels in one go.)
You may also develop nutritional deficiencies.
The medical profession is mostly completely blind to all of this. If you complain about muscle weakness to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest that you join a gym club. Because that is what he or she would do in your place. But these doctors aren’t you. They aren’t poor and haven’t got the foggiest idea what it is like to be really poor.
So instead of buying yet another fancy this or that for your garden or patio and an Alexa or iPhone, you could go to your local Aldi or Lidl, look at how other people are shopping and spend the money you would have spent on your new garden ornament on on that new iPhone on people who would, in a sense, have been paying for your iPhone, Alexa or garden ornament.
Inequality seems to be the result of you not wanting to pay 600 for your new phone but only 400, so that you can spend 200 on your garden ornament. It seems to mean that there are people who get paid very little so that you can get what you want (but don’t need). It seems to mean that there are people who live in environments that have been polluted by the side effects of your consumerism. (It is not healthy to live close to a garbage dump, for example.)
Money and income are not limited resources like oil and gas, but consumerist spending is linked to the depletion of limited resources, and somehow, that results in greater inequality.
Research by universities and the IMF has shown that greater equality makes everyone better off, including those at the top socio-economic levels.