The Chimera of Equality; Inequality Bestrides the West. Rich and Poor: Never the Twain Shall Meet. If Western Countries Have Not Combated Their Huge Disparities between Rich and Poor in Income, Housing, Education, Jobs-How on Earth Do They Think They Can "Make Poverty History", or Remove Other Inequalities, in Africa?

By Orakwue, Stella | New African, August-September 2007 | Go to article overview

The Chimera of Equality; Inequality Bestrides the West. Rich and Poor: Never the Twain Shall Meet. If Western Countries Have Not Combated Their Huge Disparities between Rich and Poor in Income, Housing, Education, Jobs-How on Earth Do They Think They Can "Make Poverty History", or Remove Other Inequalities, in Africa?


Orakwue, Stella, New African


Equality does not make you equal. "I'm as good as she is." "I can do what he does." But you aren't, are you? You can't, can you? You can only do what you are good at. Do what you're good at. What is that, by the way?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The chimera of equality. The fraudulent fragrance of equality. The shimmering evasiveness of it. How often do you look at somebody who is supposedly your "equal" and think: "No, you're not. You are not my equal."

You know what it took to get you where you are: the long, hard, dark, pot-holed, never-ending road; and they, by contrast, were chauffeured along the smooth, well-lit, well signposted scenic route. You both got to the same place in the end, but does that make them your equal? I think not.

In a place like the United Kingdom an authoritative report published in July revealed that the wealth gap between rich and poor was the widest in nearly 40 years. Both socially and geographically, rich and poor are "increasingly segregated". They are going backwards towards income disparities not seen in generations.

Westerners want to target the rich of Africa while leaving their rich free to enjoy their spoils. Their middle classes have been discounted. Discarded. They are busy tearing their hair out leading their hamster ladder lives. Always looking for the next dollar or pound or euro that will pay for another hour at an early opening or late closing nursery school for the children they need to get out of their way. Their middle class status has been squeezed out of them. Swallowed up, I should think, by their own grubby desire to be better than both rich and poor. Today, it seems to me, you are either the rich, or you are the poor who want to be rich, or you are just someone of indeterminate class trying to become rich: somebody who is stuck in the middle who does not aspire to be or remain there. Not like his or her parents and grandparents. Who would want to be middle class today?

It is no longer enough to have enough to be "comfortable". Where is the comfort in that? Especially when all you see and hear is talk about other people's millions and their million-dollar houses, interior decoration, clothes and cars and party life.

Especially when people are so desperate for even a small slice of the rich man's "celebrity" lifestyle that businesses are booming which offer quick, fast, but most of all cheap duplicates and copies of anything seen in the possession of the rich. From the dress, shoes, bags, sunglasses, watches, that they wore "just last night", to the toilet roll holder they have in their bathrooms.

If you can't be rich yourself, at least you can have their castoffs and clothe your life in tawdry, cheap replicas of their lives. And then maybe their rich life might rub off on you for a tenth of the price.

What is the point of being middle class today? It seems that there is no point. This is rather a shame for black people. For most black people, wherever we have ended up in the world, have never really managed to attain the good life of middle class status, or the attributes that go with it. Now, has that middle road bypassed us? It could be. It could be that aiming to become middle class is not going to be enough for us. Who just wants to have a comfortable, decent, solid, good life with just enough money to provide that? A life good enough to set an example by. For others to judge themselves by. Life in the middle lane.

Interesting, isn't it, how things tend to fade away almost as we appear to realise the absolute value and necessity of it.

Ask your friends and acquaintances how much money they would like to have. What would they say? "Oh, enough to get by"? "I want to be comfortable"? Or do they say, "Millions!" And they don't really care how they make it.

It's only in Africa that foreigners believe that they are enriching us by donating a cow, a goat, or some chickens and a plough. …

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The Chimera of Equality; Inequality Bestrides the West. Rich and Poor: Never the Twain Shall Meet. If Western Countries Have Not Combated Their Huge Disparities between Rich and Poor in Income, Housing, Education, Jobs-How on Earth Do They Think They Can "Make Poverty History", or Remove Other Inequalities, in Africa?
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