23 March 2023

John Falzon in the Jesuits’ Eureka Street: “Poverty is, above all else, a power relation. Typified by income inadequacy and housing deprivation, it is a means of deliberate disempowerment, a structural and historical violence done to people, not an individual state passively or accidentally experienced by people. Nor is poverty a choice by those who are forced to experience it, as per former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s argument that poverty in Britain was ‘not material but behavioural’. Poverty is a choice, a political choice though, not a personal one. And poverty is material. But it is also more. That it is primarily a power relation is evidenced in the poverty experienced on the basis of gendered violence, unequal (or absent) bargaining power, colonisation, ableism, queerphobia, ageism and exclusion from secure work, adequate income security, or housing. It is also evidenced by the shame and humiliation that is often carefully manufactured and imposed. … If we want to prevent poverty we need both: a more equitable distribution of income, especially for those who are on income support payments or low or insecure wages; and the building and buttressing of a safe, democratic and respectful socio-economic space.”