COLUMN: The growing chasm between wealth and poverty

COLUMN: The growing chasm between wealth and poverty

Wealth inequality was a significant factor in the Russian Revolution on Nov. 7 and 8, 1917

The world’s eight richest people have more wealth between them than the poorest 3.6 billion people combined, according to a report from Oxfam.

The report, released earlier this year, also states that one person in 10 worldwide has an income of less than $2 a day.

Since 2015, the richest one per cent of the world’s population possess more wealth than the remaining 99 per cent.

It’s hard to comprehend such a staggering gap between rich and poor.

Even in Canada, where we have assistance programs in place, there’s an astonishing gap between rich and poor.

Two people, David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr., have more wealth than the poorest 11 million Canadians.

The president of the Royal Bank of Canada receives more money in a single day than a full-time employee on minimum wage earns in two years.

David McKay’s $11.52 million, which he received in the last fiscal year, is an amount few can comprehend. It’s also a lot higher than his compensation package, in the same role, just a few years earlier.

These facts and figures leave me feeling uneasy.

Some may argue that those raising the issue of wealth inequality are nothing more than dissatisfied, lazy whiners who believe the world owes them a living.

What’s wrong with prosperity? Shouldn’t hard work and ambition be rewarded with financial gain?

But such questions miss the point. This is not about whether hard work and ambition should be rewarded. Rather, it is a question of why a day of work for one person is worth more than $46,000 while another person’s work day is worth $90.80 and a day’s work for another is valued at less than $2.

It’s a question of why some have immense wealth while globally, one in seven people face chronic hunger, malnutrition and starvation. What creates such gaps, and what can be done in response?

The chasm between rich and poor is growing, in Canada and throughout the world. What could happen if this gap continues to grow?

One possible scenario is a mass unrest or revolution.

It has happened before.

Wealth inequality was a significant factor in the Russian Revolution on Nov. 7 and 8, 1917.

That revolution, 100 years ago next Tuesday, resulted in the formation of the Soviet Union, a nation which attempted to do away with wealth inequality, but had many other problems instead.

Wealth imbalance was also a factor in other revolutions including the ones in China in 1949, Cuba in 1959 and a number of African nations in the 1950s and 1960s. It was not the only factor, especially in the African nations which were also shaking off colonial rule.

A revolution is a messy, violent attempt to bring about change, a move made out of desperation.

Right now, the frustration has already begun to show itself. The Occupy protests a few years ago were attempts to raise the issue of inequality in our society.

But instead of dialogue or discourse, they were met with ridicule and mockery.

Occupy is over, but the issue has not gone away. We still have a huge gap between rich and poor, in Canada and around the world.

This is a problem which demands a response. Inequality at this level eventually affects us all.

If the gap continues to widen, how long will it be before today’s dissatisfaction and frustration turn to rage? And when that happens, could we experience a revolution similar to the one which led to the creation of the Soviet Union 100 years ago?

I’d rather not find out the answer to that question.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Linda Sanky photo
Vehicle fire spreads to trees at Penticton beach spot

The fire is at Pyramid beach, off Highway 97 between Summerland and Penticton

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Nominally 'flushable' wipes caused one of Keremeos lift stations to shut down, damaging the pump inside. The Village is asking residents not to flush anything that isn't human waste. (Black Press)
Keremeos reminds residents not to flush wipes after pump damaged

‘Flushable’ wipes caused the pump to seize up and burn out

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read