Poverty & politics

Often it works out this way for me, for a period of time all the references point in one direction and in this sense for a period of days I found myself thinking about poverty and politics in the broadest sense, or how the poor are represented and represent themselves.

First, the recent Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, the film by the British director, Ken Loach ... I, Daniel Blake.

Scenes in this film made me cry, those relating to the single mother (feeding herself desperately from a tin at the Food Bank, shoving the food in her mouth; or when her daughter crawled into her bed at night and spoke of her shame).

While certain plot developments in the film were far from subtle, and heroics in films like this never appeal to me there is no question that Loach has created a film of great heart and humanity. As always, it's difficult to know how such a film might affect the current UK politic, which seems obsessive in its desire to punish those considered to be unworthy, but the existence of such films is important to me.

Around the same time, I was reading Jon Ronson's funny and clever The Psychopath Test, subtitle A Journey through the Madness industry (2001) which included a very moving description of those left behind in the United States post-industrial South: Ronson is taken around the ruins of a town that no longer exists (all the factories were closed by Albert J Dunlap, when he was CEO of Sunbeam Corp, the man who was nicknamed 'Chainsaw Al' for his mass dismissal of employees that pleased the stock markets no end). 

Many of the same people are most probably now voting Trump in 2016, buoyed by a feeling of being heard after decades of economic and social neglect. Whatever we might think of Trump's political movement, we can't deny the fact that those who support him feel acknowledged within his political platform, and this represents a kind of revolution in politics, seen not only in the US but also in Europe with the ascent of far-right populist movements and Asian demagogues, such as Duterte in the Philippines.

Much has been written on this, too often after the event (where middle-class correspondents from big cities are sent to these disadvantaged areas as if they are astronauts visiting the moon), but I found this article interesting: 'How economic inequality found a political voice' by Michael Spence, published in MarketWatch that details the link between social media and these political movements. 

On a slightly different tangent, I recommend this documentary - Poverty, Inc - (2014) that explores how the dominant charity model in international development/aid exploits those in the Global South, leading, for example, to the dumping of unwanted goods that ends up destroying local industry, or more generally how the system serves the interests of the givers (global corporations and international aid agencies) rather than the receivers.

Poverty, Inc. challenged and educated me, and I hope will lead me to becoming more active in campaigns to disrupt this situation in the future, in particular with relation to certain countries in West Africa (Mali, Ivory Coast) - and might offer some sort of path.