Letter: The spiral from poverty to violence

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Mepham (Letters, 17 July) is right to find the causes of war in poverty but it runs even deeper than that. Helder Camara, an archbishop who championed the poor in Brazil in the 1970s, wrote about the spiral of violence.

Poverty, with its hunger and ill-health, is the violence of the comfortable against the poor. The second stage is the violent revolt of the poor against the injustice of their poverty. The third is the violence of the forces of law and order financed by the comfortable when they put down the revolt. It would be economically and socially less costly to tackle poverty in the first place.

In the United Kingdom there are signs that we are already in that violent spiral. The poorest 10 per cent have experienced a real reduction in their income and their expectation of life over the past 18 years. The reasons given for the diminishing life span are malnutrition, stress and inadequate health care. The difference in life expectancy between the richest men and the poorest men in our society is about seven years. Violence and its violent repression is increasing.

The Government has set up committees to consider the relationship between taxation and benefits and to examine ways of combating the effects of poverty on health. I hope they will both address the relationship between violence and poverty and act soon, effectively and radically enough to increase the expectation of life of the poorest and close the gap of life between them and their richer fellow citizens.

The Rev PAUL NICHOLSON

Trustee

Zaccheus 2000 Trust

Henley-on-Thames,

Oxfordshire

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