‘The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor’ – Voltaire

Wednesday 1st May

And what an apt subject on Mayday, a traditional celebration of working people and their rights.  Of course when Voltaire wrote that there were really only two classes, those who worked and those who were rich enough not to work.  There wasn’t much in between.  So, in effect there were the few rich and everyone else who was poor.

Once upon a time there would have simply been a tribe that existed and hunted or gathered roots and berries to eat.  Everyone was more or less equal, and what resources there were were shared out.  There was no concept of storing food for another time, when food ran out you went out and hunted or gathered some more and if times were good you ate well, if not…

It was only with the introduction of farming that the idea of a surplus arose.  And with that surplus came wealth and money and power and all the rest of it.  And inequalities emerged, or were developed as a tool, so that those who controlled the surplus made others work for them and lived off their efforts.  Capitalism was born, and has developed into a many-headed hydra that has one simple mantra; in order for the rich to remain rich there has to be an abundance of the poor, who have no choice but to work for them in order to have anything at all.  And it is all driven by greed and envy and a whole system of rewards and punishments hurtles the thing along relentlessly.  In a way we are all trapped, rich and poor alike, for to step outside of the machine is the perhaps greatest crime of all.   And despite the marketeers belief it is not human nature to be greedy, to steal, to use others labour to enrich oneself.  These are taught behaviours, they are not inherent human traits.

This world of rich and poor is not the only way, though how we disentangle ourselves from it all and get to a state of no greed, of selfless sharing, of people helping each other I am not sure.  Of one thing I am certain though.  The rich desperately need the poor, though I am not sure if the poor need the rich quite as badly.

'Love truth, but pardon error.' (Voltaire)