THE world’s population currently stands at 7.6 Billion. In 2018, Oxfam reported that one per cent of the world’s population is rich and they control 82 per cent of global wealth.
These percentiles are stark reminders that the masses, the downtrodden and the ‘have nots’ will always outnumber the wealthy and powerful. They have driven history from time immemorial and for this very reason, those of us who enjoy the consideration of not being in any the above-mentioned category, should never ignore the power of the people at the bottom.
There is a famous quote that has become the standard description for the lack of regard for the ‘have nots’: ‘let them eat cake.’ ‘Let them eat cake’, the French translation of ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’ first appeared in book six of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Confessions’ published in 1782. It is popularly attributed to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, during the French Revolution. It is often argued that the Princess never made this statement, but it remains a widely used phrase that encompasses the lack of empathy for the realities of the downtrodden. The ever presence of the impecunious is felt in different circumstances and reinforces the point of them always being more than the ‘haves.’ Any leader who is indifferent to the plight of those who struggle to make ends meet, shall have a very short stay on the throne.
In his book, ‘Power of the Poor’, the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez argues, “But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalised by our social and cultural worlds.
“They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labour and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.” Alluding to the inescapable creation of society, the revered priest hints at the importance of the forgotten people. Anyone who tries political leadership and ignores the inevitability of the masses will have their political legs gone before they can walk. This is an almost eternal fact of life. The powerful is always the few who would use the majority of the people from time to time at their own whims and fancies.