A report released early this year by the organization Oxfam International revealed that the combined income of the richest 100 people in the world is enough to end global poverty four times over, and that the gap between rich and poor has exploded by some 60% in the last 20 years. Rather than hinder this division, the recent global economic crisis has exacerbated it. Money does not disappear, you see, but tends to be translated up the income ladder in times of financial distress.
According to UNICEF, nearly half the world's population lives on less than $2.50 a day. One billion children live in poverty, and 22,000 of them die each day because of it. More than one billion people lack access to adequate drinking water, and 400 million of those are children. Almost a billion people go hungry every day.
The incomes of 100 people out of the seven billion on the planet could fix that, and then fix it again, and then fix it again, and then fix it again. The exact total of the wealth of these individuals is actually something of a mystery, thanks to the tax havens they use to hide their fortunes. There are trillions of dollars squirreled away in those havens - no one knows quite how much - and the subtraction of that money from the global economy has a direct and debilitating effect on the people not fortunate enough to be part of that elite 100.
~ from The End of the Beginning of the End by William Rivers Pitt ~
How much is one human life worth? That is a difficult question to pose and answer.
In the overall scheme of things, all lives -- human and otherwise -- are worth an equivalent amount. All life forms are born and then die. From the standpoint of Tao, God, Allah or the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, no one or thing is more or less valuable than the next.
While it is true that many other species establish pecking orders, it is only the human species that determines intrinsic worth based almost solely on a fiction the we ourselves conjured up: wealth. This is why certain individuals can hoard far more than they could ever dream of utilizing and consider such behavior just and virtuous.
But what does it say about human society where 100 people can amass so much that they impoverish billions? What does it say about our species when the miniscule few can so dominate our institutions that they hold more power than almost everyone else combined?
More importantly, how can these 100 people look themselves in the mirror when they know that their largess is responsible for the premature deaths of thousands of innocent children per day?