What a wonderful world we live in!

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IF EVER YOU'VE felt doubts about why you are so against the capitalist system, just read the latest United Nations Human Development Report (or at least the media synopsis of it - see Irish Times 9/9/98). You may have known that there is inequality in the world, that the rich always seem to look after themselves and the poor just simply get poorer all the time. But are you aware of just how unequal the distribution of wealth actually is? Even for a battle-hardened campaigner against inequality and injustice like myself, the figures are quite horrifying.

Take some of the examples:

The richest 3 people in the world are wealthier than the poorest 48 countries.
The wealth of the worlds 225 richest people is equal to the annual income of half the worlds population.
The worlds annual military spending (£538 billion) is almost 20 times greater than the total annual spending on basic education (£4 billion), water and sanitation (£6 billion), womens reproductive health (£8 billion) and basic health and nutrition (£9 billion).

The Celtic Tiger in all its glory is certainly playing its part in contributing to the marginalisation and increased poverty being visited on huge numbers of people. Some statistics on the Tigers prowess include:

Ireland has the second highest proportion of people living in poverty in the industrialised world - second to the United States, the supposed great bastion of freedom and democracy.
Irish women are worse off, relative to men, than in any other Western country.
We can boast of the highest level of functional illiteracy of 17 industrialised states (Functional illiteracy is defined as people having difficulty with basic tasks such as following instructions on a medicine bottle or reading a story to a child).
The second highest level of long-term unemployment among industrialised countries (7.6%) is to be found in the Celtic Tigers lair. Only Spain has higher levels.

I think that these figures demonstrate clearly whos mauling who in the land of the Celtic Tiger. Not alone that, but the next time someone tries to convince you that we live in a free and democratic society, ask them if the population of those 48 countries referred to above have freedom on a par with those 3 parasites.

Sean Farrell

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 55 published in October 1998