Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Liberals, Speaking Relatively

Liberal Catnip comments on my earlier post (welcome, LC!). Hidden away in a fairly lengthy comment is the following gem:
You fail to appreciate the fact that poverty is relative to the country in whichit appears.
So, to those on the left, not only are morals now relativistic, but so is poverty. Odd, because I'd always thought that fundamentally the needs of each and every human being were similar; that someone living in even a poor social housing neighbourhood in Toronto was less poor than someone living in a refugee camp in Africa and subsisting on UN food aid. I'd always pictured that Torontonian having more of their needs met than the African and therefore being less poor. But no. Relatively speaking, the Canadian is poorer, because (God forbid) Canada has rich people too, while the African refugee camp doesn't.

Follow this to its logical conclusion and we should abandon all international aid, because, as long as everyone in a country is poor, then, relatively speaking nobody is. What patent nonsense.

Relativism is a necessary tool for any left-winger, because it's the only way to avoid what psychologists call 'dissonance' - the holding of simultaneously contradictory ideas and viewpoints.

For example, without using relativism, how could someone (rightly) believe that the Catholic Church and Catholics in general should be held accountable for the actions of pedophile priests, while simultaneously condemning the suggestion that Islam and Moslems be held accountable for their followers flying planes into buildings.

Uncomfortable as it is for liberals, the fact is that there are absolutes in life. There is right and there is wrong; moral and immoral, rich and poor. Morals don't change, mores do.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be striving to address the conditions in which our own poorest people live - and that First Nations should be at the top of that list. We must find solutions to these problems, although after 30 years of throwing liberal dollars at the issue I humbly suggest that it might be time to recognise that it might take more than money. But that would mean doing something practical, and the left would rather sit in ivory towers of academia or DSL-connected apartments and preach.


Doggerelle said...

Well, in a sense, he's right.

Poverty IS relative.

I mean, if you've just seen your family raped and murdered and your village burned but you got out alive then of course you feel better off than oooh, for example, the person who *had* a house to live in but chose to rip out the plumbing and trash it, and now has no money to pay for food because there's a whole pile of empties in the corner.

Well OBVIOUSLY the canadian is worse off. I mean, they've known privilege...

Clive said...

Hmmm ... you mean like these folks?

Neo Conservative said...

we can all rest assured assured that liberal catnip will never have the opportunity to work in, say... nuclear physics.

release the hounds!!!


catnip said...

That's not what I meant at all.

Relatively speaking, the Canadian is poorer, because (God forbid) Canada has rich people too, while the African refugee camp doesn't.

Don't put words in my mouth. I said no such thing about Canadians being "poorer".

Clive said...

Then what does 'poverty is relative to the country in which it appears' actually mean? If not that ... er.. poverty is relative to the country in which it appears?

catnip said...

You wrote:

Similarly with poverty - LC thinks that Canada is drowning in poverty - 'visited a shelter or a reserve lately?' she asks. Have you ever seen a South American favela, LC? I have. There isn't a place, a reserve, a shelter, a street corner, anywhere in Canada that compares. That's poverty.

Actually that isn't entirely true. Consider that some reserve conditions have been compared to those of third world countries. And, as I said, I worked with the homeless and that type of poverty does exist here.

However, overall, what our society considers to be "poverty" is measured by the poverty line guidelines. As a poor Canadian, my income would be (and has been) seen by others less fortunate in other countries as being "rich" by their standards. However, relative to our Canadian standards, I am economically poor.

catnip said...

Via the OECD:

There are two basic notions of poverty. First, there are people whose income is simply not enough to be able to afford basic goods or services. This is absolute poverty, and most measures show it to be in sharp decline in OECD countries, indeed, by more than 60% between the mid-1980s and 2000 when measured with respect to a constant relative income threshold.

But relative poverty is another matter. This assesses people’s income, for instance, by benchmarking it with respect to an average or median household income. In essence, it measures how far individuals and families are from affording typical goods and services. In the mid-1980s, the proportion of the OECD population with disposable income at less than half of the median was around 9% on average, and by 2000 this proportion grew slightly, to over 10%.

Clive said...

I understand the definition of 'relative' perfectly well. My point is, you're using the measurements of relative poverty in Canada to attack Stephen Harper's speech in Chile in which he was arguing that countries in the Americas need not accept absolute poverty as their lot.

By all means, we can debate the merits of various measurements of poverty in Canada, but it was disingenous to twist PMSH's words about other nations. I know you hate him, so it's not surprising. But the debate over the relative wealth of nations in the Americas, and how to generally improve things continent wide has nothing to do with relative poverty in Canada, which is the second wealthiest nation in the Americas. PMSH was talking about nations, you deliberately twisted his words to suit your domestic political leanings.

catnip said...

I don't "hate" anyone.

And this is what I wrote about Harper's speech:

"He said that some countries in the region, such as Chile, have had "phenomenal success" in political, economic and social development.

"In certain other countries, however, we are witnessing cases of regressive economic policy, dangerous political conflict and persistent poverty, social inequality and insecurity," Mr. Harper said, He said that Canada had succeeded in building a strong economy while maintaining political structures different from those of the U.S."

One of those "certain other countries" is Canada. Been to a reserve or a homeless shelter lately, Steve?

I didn't "twist" his words. I stated a fact.

Clive said...

Since (I believe) we are in agreement that in terms of absolute poverty Canada is not 'one of those countries', being the second wealthiest in the continent, it follows that what you are asserting as fact is that Canada has 'persistent [relative] poverty'.

However, even by your OECD definition, relative poverty is subjective, relying on an arbitrary definition of a notional 'poverty line'. Therefore, any statement concerning the level of relative poverty can never be fact; it's always subjective and therefore always only a matter of opinion.