Thursday, 16 October 2008

Poverty

Yesterday was Blog Action Day. To quote: Today thousands of bloggers will unite to discuss a single issue - poverty. We aim to raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web.

I found my way there through a post on Lane's blog where she offers an interesting idea twinning towns here with villages in poor regions.

Having done work for World AIDS Day and UNAIDS, the slight difficulty I see is one of patronisation. The Global South, as underdeveloped countries are now described, is naturally very sensitive to any inference from their ex-colonialists that they are incapable of looking after their own. It may be frustrating to those whose honourable intention is only to help but nevertheless understandable. Charities dealing with poverty in any country have to be as sensitive, if not more so, to the historical, social and cultural context in which they operate as any political body.

I fear that the only real solution to the poverty is a radical reorganisation of the way in which capitalism works. The gap between the rich and poor within countries and between countries is growing exponentially. I can see future unrest on an unprecedented scale.

Aravind Adiga, this year's winner of the Man Booker Prize, has hoisted a weather cone warning of impending storms with his book
The White Tiger

The banks, who in their greed for greater profit skirted the few remaining regulations left after the Reagan, Thatcher era, have precipitated the current credit crisis. We, the citizens of the world through our taxes, have rescued them - somewhere I saw the rescue package equated to a figure of £280 for every man, woman and child on the planet.

This morning I hear on the news the collapse of confidence in the money markets has crossed to other markets, so banks are now unwilling to lend money for fear that their loans for housing or investment will not be repaid as the markets they first caused to sink carry on sinking. Fortunately, bankers will be able to ride out the impending recession because we have now secured their jobs.

No one in the right senses can say the present system is working. Till now it has been maintained because it has been in the interest of those who have most power to influence governments to keep the status quo. The laissez-faire attitude that if the system ain't broke, don't fix it. Well the system is now all but broke. National governments should grab this opportunity to break the supra-national power of global corporations to reassert their own authority.

They won't of course because there is no Plan B.

But the fact is capitalism is amoral; at heart, it is just a system of exchange and cares not who benefits and who loses. It could, if someone was so minded, behave in a fairer, more equable manner that would be of benefit to the many and not the few. However, it will require a new John Maynard Keynes or Adam Smith, a man or woman with a radical insight into how the system may be shifted to a more democratic system of wealth creation and especially distribution.

This might not end poverty, Christ was right on that point, the poor will always be with us, but it would go much further than any amount of charity in helping relieve abject poverty.

2 comments:

Lane said...

I agree absolutely agree that the present 'system' is broken and amoral. And things need to change but change is laboriously slow and people continue to suffer.

Whilst I concede that twinning is simplistic and yes, may upset sensibilities, I can only say that if my child were starving, I would take help from wherever I could and stuff being patronized. That may be an emotive response to the global picture but help could be administered whilst the big wheels of change turn. I also believe that money in local government is squandered shamelessly when it could be channelled to far better use.

These Blog Action Day posts have prompted some interesting conversations and comments.

DOT said...

I do agree with you, Lane. And it's not that I think your idea simplistic, it's just that I know a little of how the bureaucratic mind works, be it that of a councillor or NGO representative for the reasons I outlined.

I think it would be more effective if the twinning was effected directly by individuals, or local organisations, from both communities in the way that some schools are twinned with others in Africa, for example.

As for local councils, their squandering is but a mimetic shadow of that of their masters in Whitehall.