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Poverty is violence

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“Poverty is the worst form of violence”— Mahatma Gandhi

It is not uncontroversial to say that poverty is a form of injustice. That those living without their basic needs met are not being treated fairly within our rich and affluent, well-connected society. It is clear to Bermuda Is Love that the great economic and wealth disparity in our society is not only unjust, but that the violence of poverty is harmfully maintained by our unequal social order.

The maldistribution of wealth results in a whole range of serious physical and psychological harms for those living in poverty, including “higher risks of disease, shortened lifespans, stunted mental and emotional development, and inadequate opportunity to lead a meaningful life”.

Poverty in this sense is not simply about being poor. It is where society has the means to help persons, but for whatever reason they are not given the help they so deserve. There is no question that Bermuda has the resources to end poverty if we view it as our collective responsibility. The question is, why do we continue to allow poverty to exist.

For reasons made clear below, poverty is not given the same kind of moral condemnation as other forms of violence such as murder. This is because poverty is not explicitly maintained through the use of “vigorous force”. We do not live in a society where those in poverty are threatened, tortured or physically assaulted into a life of poverty.

However, we do live in a society that dates back to a period of colonialism and slavery where the ruling class and land-holders oppressed the enslaved as landless labourers. This system of oppression was further legalised and codified to defend the ruling class to ensure that the emancipated poor stayed poor. These same patterns of structural oppression continue today as structural violence, whereby the ruling class use similar institutions and systems which they have created to defend their wealth and amass more wealth, simply for the sake of accumulation.

In this regard, poverty is violence because the harms of being poor are directly caused by the enforcement of the existing systems of social, political, legal, economical rules and societal norms. They are institutionalised harms, which “attack a person’s dignity, their sense of selfhood, and their future”. But while poverty is caused by the present system of economic rules and societal norms, it is created and managed by individuals, and it is individuals who “refrain from seeking to change these norms to achieve a fairer redistribution of wealth and power” to allow us all to share in equal citizenship and humankind.

In a Bermuda full of great material wealth and economic prosperity, it should be seen as an offence against our collective conscience that a certain segment (class) of society be denied their basic needs simply because they cannot afford them. It does both the poor and rich a disservice, as it reduces human existence to that of want; to that of oppression; and to that of violence. Moreover, what Bermuda truly needs today is “not so much more material wealth, but the opportunity to live in peace”.

To achieve peace, we must recognise the violence of poverty. The term violence “is a very important term of moral evaluation, moral condemnation, so to fail to extend it to the harms of social order would be to fail to recognise their moral continuity with the harms of social disorder”. This meaning that the violence of poverty is not simply a moral wrong but a violation against our collective human conscience, against religious doctrine, against international law and human rights, against social cohesion and peace, against what it means to be human.

Poverty is a crime. It is a crime against all of us.

Bermuda Is Love calls for a radical revolution of thought and redistribution of wealth, which can help to create a more just, equal and free Bermuda, and eliminate poverty altogether. “Poverty and violence are antithetical to the collective wellbeing of our society”, and poverty is itself caused by the unequal distribution of wealth and the unjust acceptance of the modern social order.

We call on every Bermudian to understand their collective responsibility to help each other, to actively take steps to build community, and to advocate for peace and love.


Lee, Steven. “Is Poverty Violence?” Retrieved from: http://genevapeace.org/pdfs/Is_Poverty_Violence.pdf

Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda is Love (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

• Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda is Love

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Published September 01, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated August 31, 2023 at 7:03 pm)

Poverty is violence

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