Anti-poverty week is about more than lacking money
ANTI-POVERTY Week, which ends today, should have prompted us to think a little more, and as a society to do a little more, for those who are living below the poverty line.
This is defined as the estimated minimum level of income needed to service the essentials of life, and I understand that nine percent of metropolitan and 15 percent of regional Queenslanders are deemed to be living below it.
It would be sobering, however, to know what the many millions of global villagers who struggle every day just for physical survival would think about poverty, Australian style.
In this lucky country, poverty has always been with us in various demographic pockets and degrees of severity. It has not, however, been an up-front nationwide issue since the dark days of the Great Depression, when it was all too to obvious, even to a schoolboy.
I still remember the frequent visits to our house by jobless, homeless 'swaggies' from all walks of life, pleading to be given a bit of wood chopping or a few jobs around the house in return for a feed.
My father, who had been ruined as a farmer in the early years of the depression but now had a landed a priceless government job, was passionate about not getting into debt. I remember him telling me once: "So long as I've got a fiver in my pocket and don't owe anyone anything, we'll be OK."
Those days have long gone, but now, with anxiety about the patchy economy and threats to job security, mortgages or business viability, tighter belts have become de rigueur and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening.
"Position, position, position" may be the real estate industry's most effective mantra, but perception, perception, perception is an even more critical factor in the ups and downs of the economy.
Negative media speculation and gloomy headings, as opposed to matter-of-fact reporting, spark perceptions which shorten the odds of a downturn, recession, or worse.
Call the down times what you will, but I have lived through many of them, and have learned from all of them that credit is a two-edged sword, that thrift is not a dirty word and that materialist expectations are always vulnerable to circumstance.
It is important to remember, however, that poverty is not just a chronic shortage of money to buy essentials. It has many faces, and behind some of them, at various times in our lives, we are all poor.
High among the many poverties, of course, is poverty of time. Even among my contemporaries no longer slogging away in the workplace, one of the main complaints is that they are time poor.
Also on the list, though, are poverty of spirit, poverty of optimism, poverty of trust and poverty of compassion.
To this mix of wants, we should add the timeless message of a 1965 song: What the world needs now, and always will, is love. Without it, we will always be poor.