July 2012

Too much of a good thing

When will we start to join the dots and realise that we are connected to people without privileges, asks Olivia Mottershead of St Patrick’s College Campbelltown.

BY Olivia Mottershead

Do you remember the story of the Labyrinth? The Labyrinth was a maze-like prison commissioned to hold a terrifying beast of a monster: half man, half bull called the Minotaur. The Minotaur had a terrible appetite for… human flesh.

To satisfy the beast’s hunger, men and women were sacrificed to the monster, until a brave man called Jason went to the Labyrinth intending to kill the monster with only two things: a ball of twine and a sword. With these he killed the monster and ended the terror of the endlessly turning walls of the Labyrinth.

In our world today there is a beast even more terrifying than the Minotaur; a monster trapping people in a Labyrinth of fear, pain and sorrow, making their lives full of tiredness, starvation and disease. This monster is real. This monster is poverty. Poverty strikes, it kills, it eats and it is hungry.

Like the Minotaur, poverty kills. It kills one person every 3.5 seconds. While we bask in the excesses of too much of a good thing many people around the world live with the monster called poverty.

Eight year-old Zen lives in the labyrinth, facing the monster of poverty every day. She survives off scarce amounts of food and shares a bed with her mother and four brothers. School is not possible. Future work is not possible. She is always worried. She is always sad. She dreams of the day when she can stop screaming, the day when the monster dies.

Poverty doesn’t just live overseas. It also lives around the corner, ready to strike. It comes in the guise of economic, social and cultural poverty.

In Australia today poverty is not necessarily about starvation. It’s about not having a job. It’s about not knowing where you’re going to live that night. It’s about not having resources that give you real choice. It’s about not having that good thing.

Women and children are more likely to live in poverty. Today, many will have the choice between being homeless, going to a refuge or putting up with abuse.

When is enough, enough? When will we start to join the dots that we are connected to people without privileges? That our excessive lifestyles, where we have far more than we really need, actually impact on the lives of the world’s poor? Oscar Romero once said, “let us live simply, so that others may simply live”.

The monster is not a mythical creature at all. It exists in us. It is the desire for too much of a good thing. Poverty is a monster. Poverty is real. It strikes. It kills. It eats and it is hungry.

Olivia Mottershead

Olivia Mottershead is a Year 8 student at St Patrick's College Campbelltown, NSW. Olivia was a finalist in the 2012 Catholic Schools' Public speaking competition. This is the text of her speech.

If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.