The term collateral damage has recently been added to thevocabulary of military forces to refer to the unintendedconsequences of armed interventions, consequences that areunplanned but nevertheless damaging and often very costly in humanand personal terms. But collateral damage is not unique to theworld of armed intervention - it is also one of the most salientand striking dimensions of contemporary social inequality. Theinflammable mixture of growing social inequality and the risingvolume of human suffering marginalized as collateral isbecoming one of most cataclysmic problems of our time.
For the political class, poverty is commonly seen as a problemof law and order - a matter of how to deal with individuals, suchas unemployed youths, who fall foul of the law. But treatingpoverty as a criminal problem obscures the social roots ofinequality, which lie in the combination of a consumerist lifephilosophy propagated and instilled by a consumer-oriented economy,on the one hand, and the rapid shrinking of life chances availableto the poor, on the other.