Bankers, starving children and social media

Recently, a friend posted this on his wall. I was shocked and re-posted it on mine albeit with a disclaimer that I hadn’t checked the statistics to see if this can be substantiated.

Others were shocked too and also wanted to know if this was fact or highly opinionated fiction. The IF campaign is run by about one hundred UK-based charities so you would think it would be legitimate and get its facts right. I decided I needed to check it out.

While I did so, I also read the comments left by those who bothered to respond to the original posting on Facebook.

It made for disturbing reading.

I want to share with you some of the issues raised and the rants that came out that worry me as much – if not more – than the point raised by the post itself.

First, then, the facts. I haven’t spend hours trawling the internet so if anyone can do better than this please send me the links to the relevent websites. Nevertheless, I found some interesting sites:

The Guardian has the payout of the top four banks as being around 5 Billion pounds. (See here) This is less than the IF campaign’s 13 billion but is only for the top four. However…

The Daily Mail agrees with the advert that 13 Billion was paid in bonues in total. (See here) I don’t trust the Mail very much, I have to say, yet it is a major newspaper in the UK and I would be surprised if these figures have been badly skewed – especially considering what the Guardian says (and if you can’t trust the Guardian what can you trust?).

A frightening website I used to ascertain the number of poor and starving which updates its figures in real time is this: Stop the Hunger.com 

The figures, if believed, make challenging and disturbing reading:

  • more than 900 million undernourished people in the world today (nearly 1 in 7 of the world’s population)
  • more than 1.5 billion are overweight with more than 500 million of them being actually obese.
  • more than 100,000 tons of food wasted in America alone today while only 21,000 tons of food aid was given.

Of the 900 million undernourished people in the world it is thought around 400 million of them are children. 60% of all the poorest people live in Asia and the Pacific. This gives me a vested interest in this, of course, as almost all the poor live in developing countries and Bangladesh is both Asian and a developing country – we have an awful lot of these people here!

However, I couldn’t find anything to tell me how much it costs to feed the poorest children. The IF site itself gave no references I could find which, unless I’ve made a mistake, is pretty poor show to be honest. But then the poster is unclear what it means about ‘feeding the world’s hungriest children’. How is this defined? Per year? Per month?

I make it about thirteen pounds a head as a rough estimate from 6.5 billion. How long does that last? I would think per month but in Bangladesh it might not last two weeks depending on how you judge ‘feeding’.

So there are problems with the wording and facts behind this campaign. Nevertheless, when you go looking, the statistics that come out make just as grim reading. The poster may not be perfectly worded but it is not lacking in substance and merit.

Which makes me all the more annoyed at some of the comments I saw on the Facebook page. It is often said that the best form of lie is a half-truth and I saw plenty there:

  • You are all rich and do nothing to help starving kids so don’t judge others for doing nothing.
  • Don’t demonise one group – if Tesco gave 10% of their annual turn-over you’d get the same result.
  • If you get rid of the bonuses, you lose all the bankers and the country instantly becomes bankrupt causing far more poor and starving.
  • The UK aid budget is more than 6.5 billion already and yet children still starve. It has nothing to do with money – the leaders of other countries just prefer yachts to feeding their people.
  • How do you know these bankers don’t give lots to charity? And what about all the sports and film stars? Why pick on bankers?
  • Stop giving to charity – it just encourages ‘spongers’. Make them work like everyone else.

That last one is my favourite. Such comments were not from ‘ranters’ but from seemingly articulate and educated people. I’ve heard similar thinking time and again on Facebook but I don’t pick on that particular form of social media. It’s in the streets and around the ‘Developed World’.

The trouble is that all these points have some truth to them but every single one misses the point of the campaign which is simply this:

There are people starving in their hundreds of millions in the world today. Everyone has a responsibility to do something about that. Those with more money, quite honestly, have more responsibility.

This campaign looks at the bankers because their outrageous bonuses (many completely undeserved and, in a very small number of cases, actually given back by some bankers in recognition of this fact) are completely out of proportion to the economic state of the British nation. But ‘picking’ on them doesn’t negate the responsibility of the Tescos of this world or of our own.

It is true that if we earn more than around twenty thousand pounds per year then we’re in the top 1% of the richest people globally. To be in the top 10% you need only earn around seven thousand.

The crime of these comments is that far from justifying the bankers (who, let’s face it, don’t really care what others think or they wouldn’t have paid themselves these bonuses in the first place), the thinking behind these comments is really “don’t judge me” which is all too often the attitude of the West. Poverty is somebody else’s problem. Let them sort themselves out.

It’s not bankers that are the problem. It’s selfishness and greed and we all have it. Don’t tell me ‘we’ (collectively) aren’t so because if that were true then, despite equally greedy governments and widespread corruption, there would be no starving children and 14,000 people would not have died of hunger just today.

Further Reading:

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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6 Responses to Bankers, starving children and social media

  1. renxkyoko says:

    It’s unconscionable. What else can I say? But I blame it on their governments.

    Like

  2. Interesting points and views. Every since I was a child I remember my Mum and Dad giving to charity generously. Who ever knocked on the door for whatever charity – they were always given something. I, myself have been and I still am involved in many charities, some address issues and concerns in the UK (such as vulnerable elderly people, drugs, etc) and some that do work on a global level. I’ve even helped set up an education relief charity for people in the very country you are in now, along with other nations in Asia and South Asia.

    I come to know one thing – those who receive charity don’t want to depend on charity – the education relief charity which we set up did one thing – instead of giving someone a fish to eat, it thought them how to fish’. In other words, as well as giving them food and clothing we also encouraged them to work and often helped buy equipment so they could work and help others.

    Unfortunately, as you may be aware, most of these poor countries have governments who are incapable of running their countries – they are often kept in power by those people who they favour – and this often means oppression on the poor to remain poor and spend their lives trying to survive as oppose to become part of a nation that thrives.

    The bottom line is this there are poor people in this world of no fault of their own, many factors contribute to their poverty which may no be apparent to people around the world. They need help, and the help they need isn’t just given them food, but to help them recover from the hardship. In this world, where so much food and water is available no child and adult should suffer because they can’t get enough to eat. The develop world has excelled to a developed status on their own merit but at times at the cost of the developing world – so it’s in the nature of this side of the world to help people around the world – irrelevant of who they are.

    Like

    • I agree with much that you say here and I happen to know many ‘rich’ businessmen who pour their wealth into charity work in various ways. In this way the ‘Bill Gates’ and “J K Rowling’s of this world are to be praised and I don’t begrudge their wealth or (undoubtedly) lavish lifestyles. I don’t really begrudge anyone’s wealth where it has been hard-earned and is in proportion to what they’ve done. If a rockstar earns a fortune it is, presumably, because people wanted their music and bought it – good for them. If a businessman is good and ethical in their job and produces something that sells and makes them rich – good for them.

      But bankers are something of a target because their wealth is so absurdly out of proportion to what they have actually achieved – especially bearing in mind they are already well paid and what we’re talking about here are bonuses – not income! While I do not judge any individual (who may well give vast amounts to charity and so on) I DO judge the industry that claims this is right and fair. The worst is the argument that bankers work ‘really hard’ for their money and contribute hugely to the economy. Everyone works hard – not least the poor rice farmer in Asia – and the contribution to the economy is only because banks control it. Drop the equivalent of an atomic bomb on all banks globally and people would continue living and soon a new form of economy would rise up. Perhaps it would be one where we go back to trading goods made or grown by our own hands instead of with money? That would be a shock to more than a few former bankers!

      But I digress.

      I 100% agree with you about ‘teaching a man to fish’ – ABSOLUTELY! That’s what development work is (or should be) all about. The fact that Governments misuse the money and it lines the pockets of the equally rich and greedy does not mean the Western ‘fat cats’ should sit back and say “ah well, you see THAT’S why we shouldn’t hand over our hard-earned money!” Unfortunately, they do and millions starve for it. I certainly agree with your comment that no one should suffer or starve in the world today – there is more than enough money, food, water and resources for every single person on the planet.

      But I’m going to argue against a very small comment of yours but one that is highly significant where you said the developed world “has excelled to a developed status on their own merit but at times at the cost of the developing world”. I know what you mean but it isn’t accurate. The fact is that the Developed World is entirely built upon the blood, sweat and tears of the developing world – not just ‘at times’. The whole of the Western world is built upon slavery using people from Africa and Asia to do their work and stealing their wealth and resources in the process. What every UK businesses may do now “on their own merit” is actually built on an entire foundation of corruption and greed. In a sense, you were handed your wealth to you before you were even born.

      I don’t say this in some kind of socialist, condemning way: every nation, including developing ones, has its history full of vice and greed. But I do say it in the sense that modern people just do not appreciate (on the whole) that we owe EVERYTHING to the very people we now roundly condemn to poverty because they no longer suit our purposes or because we can find scapegoats in their own governments. In reality we should be saying “we owe the world a great deal of thanks for hundreds of years of building our wealth at their expense. There is more than enough to go around now. We need to really pay it back”. Instead, the pressure is on, more than ever, to reduce aid to other countries.

      And the bankers continue to rake it in.

      Like

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