I just finished watching a great documentary about the history of colonialism and neocolonialism. Essentially how the west won all its affluence and lifestyle by taking from the poor. Its a powerful doc, and a must watch, even if you know the story: it never hurts to be reminded.
Here’s a brief description from the site:
Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries. Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates THE END OF POVERTY?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today’s financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line. Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, THE END OF POVERTY? features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. It is produced by Cinema Libre Studio in collaboration with the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again.
Watch it for free on Youtube (after the bump):
I sort of wish they had gone over more of the solutions to the current problem. Near the end, the one guy (Clifford Cobb) talks about some of them: relief of third world debt (the least we could do, considering the injustices that took place to put those countries into that debt in the first place); putting tax emphasis on property ownership, not on wages or purchases; ownership of natural resources by the people; and some more.
I found this list of the 10 things to end poverty on the website:
10 Solutions to End Poverty
We The People Demand:
1. The full equality between men and women in public as well as private areas of life, a worldwide minimum wage of $20 per day and the end of child labor under the age of 16 with the creation of a subsidy for scholarship.
2. The guarantee of shelter, healthcare, education, food and drinking water as basic human rights that must be provided free to all.
3. A total redistribution of idle lands to landless farmers and the imposition of a 50% cap on arable land devoted to products for export per country, with the creation of a worldwide subsidy for organic agriculture.
4. An end to private monopoly ownership over natural resources, with a minimum of 51% local communal ownership in corporations, which control such resources as well as the termination of intellectual property rights on pharmaceutical drugs.
5. The cancellation of third world debt with no reciprocal obligations attached and the payment of compensation to Third World countries for historical as well as ecological debt.
6. An obligation of total transparency for any corporation with more than 100 employees and a 1% tax on all benefits distributed to shareholders of corporations to create unemployment funds.
7. The termination of tax havens around the world as well as free flow of capital in developing countries.
8. The cancellation of taxes on labor and basic consumption, the creation of a 2% worldwide tax on property ownership (expect basic habitation for the poor) and the implementation of a global 0.5% flat tax on all financial transactions with a total prohibition of speculation on food products.
9. An equal voting for developing countries in international organizations such as IMF, World Bank, WTO, and the termination of veto right for the permanent members of the UN Security Counsel.
10. A commitment by industrialized countries to decrease carbon emission by 50% over a ten-year period as well as reducing by 25% each developed country’s consumption of natural resources.
There’s a petition you can sign, if you agree with the above.
[note: I am signatory 205. That’s pathetic. If you agree with the above, please take the time to sign it]
I find it funny (read: utterly sad and demoralizing), that the things that they talk about in the video, where powerful governments have completely controlled how other countries are run (either directly: colonisalism, or through dictators that they themselves put in, or through the washington consensus (IMF, WTO, World Bank), are in no way doubted by most academics, and yet I see more people getting their underwear in a knot from baloney things like 9/11 was an inside job.
Other topics that they touched on that I find interesting is the concept of de-progress, or a-progress, or de-growth or a-growth. That is, with the affluent countries using up SO many resources, how are we going to cut back on it?
As I’ve said previously, right now I’m reading Rising Up and Rising Down, and Vollmann touches on the french revolution, the american revolution, the October revolution, etc. etc. The theme running through all those are, the rich who kept taking, and thought they knew how to control the populace, were overthrown and slaughtered (The Terror, the royal russian family). Or another example of sorts would be Easter island, where the people over-consumed their land till they killed themselves. Obviously those two are different: one is about inequality, and the other is over-consumption of our natural resources. Although they’re different, I suspect that the solution to both would be found in creating more equality (forms of socialism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, a Rawlsian form of capitalism (if such a thing could exist)).
OK OK, so what? Isn’t this the same thing we’ve all suspected? Even if we all agreed that this were true, then what? Sign a petition? How do we (each one of us as individuals or collectively as people) make change in this world? Voting? A quiet revolution through… strong community and union relations? A bloody revolution when things get really bad (that’s usually, and unfortunately, when people decide to act)? This last question is what I’m most interested in: is our current system of democratic representation good enough? If so, then all we have to do is educate, get people to know the problems, and then get them to vote. That would mean a change of consciousness: get people less concerned with social status and consumerism, and more about politics, justice, and education. If we could accomplish that, then we could also accomplish a more direct form of democracy: some form of participatory democracy, where everyone’s voice is heard (anarcho-syndicalism is the example I can thing of).
I guess my answer then is: education (which is what this film is doing), keep participating/voting in electoral politics till a better version can come along, and greater participation in my community. Sigh. I just wish there were a more direct/easy/short-term way of fixing the world.