I don't want your diamond ring.
All I want is the right to live, Mister,
Give me back my job again.
-- 1930s union song by Jim Garland
The world's poor are not begging for charity from the rich, writes the Guardian's Robert Newman, – they're asking for justice and fairness.
As the world's one-percenters gather for this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they can feel the presence of 99ers camped outside their doors over at Camp Igloo. As usual, the most powerful of the power philanthropists will be there, led by the "designated voice of the world's poor", Bill Gates.
Am I saying that philanthropy has never done good? No, it has achieved many wonderful things. Would I rather people didn't have polio vaccines than get them from a plutocrat? No, give them the vaccines. But beware the havoc that power without oversight and democratic control can wreak.
But the point is that the poor are not begging us for charity, they are demanding justice. And when, on the occasion of his birthday, a sultan or emperor reprieved one thousand prisoners sentenced to death, no one ever called those pardons justice. Nor is it justice when a plutocrat decides to reprieve untold thousands from malaria. Human beings should not have to depend upon a rich man's whim for the right to life.