In the West, and among some in the Indian elite, this word, corruption, had purely negative connotations; it was seen as blocking India’s modern, global ambitions. But for the poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained.
–Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo
From the epilogue:
The events recounted in the preceding pages are real, as are all the names. From the day in November 2007 that I walked into Annawadi and met Asha and Manju until March 2011, when I completed my reporting, I documented the experiences of residents with written notes, video recordings, audiotapes, and photographs. Several children of the slum, having mastered my Flip Video camera, also documented events recounted in this book….When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.
I finally got the opportunity to watch the documentary Poverty Inc. It’s well worth watching and covers a lot of details that are extremely important to consider when providing assistance internationally.
As I was watching it, I kept thinking the same systemic concerns, complaints and problems occur here in the United States. The manifestation is different, but the way money, business, non-profit work and political/social forces operate are the same. Honestly, I think a Poverty Inc USA-version is both possible and warranted. Maybe someday that will happen.
The dangerI see in this film is the assumption that no help at all is better than anything being provided for free. That is not the argument made by this film, either purposely or as a result of the evidence provided. The point made…extremely well…is that non profits make money off of catastrophes and continue making money as long as the catastrophes continue, which directly and drastically hinders the efforts of people trying to overcome terrible events.
Help is ethically, morally and politically necessary. However, turning people into your permanent fundraising poster child by hindering their ability to move into (or return to) a state of financial and political self-sufficiency is not help – it’s business.
This would make an excellent starting point of an in-depth discussion or class on poverty, economics, business and politics.
This article delves into something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. There have always been people profiting off of theft from people powerless to fight back. I often wonder if the fashion industry could function without it. But poverty appropriation has become particularly trendy in recent years with the faux poor ‘proving’ poverty is fun and easy…feeding into stereotypes of all kinds.
Again, when i can get to the internet through a device other than my phone, this topic will be revisited.
The children in my life just LOVE superheroes. Protecting the universe from man-eating monsters is something that appeals to them. It’s exactly the kind of story they like to create out of their own imaginations while running through the house in a superhero cape.
I point out the superhero fandom because this book was a hit around my house – but it may not be suited to children who are truly terrified by the possibility of death-by-interstellar-monster. The following quote will help determine whether it is suited to your particular child:
Sleepy and full, the creatures retreat. They’ve all had far too much to eat. Feeding time is important, you see – it stops them from eating you and me! We’re safe from the aliens, but just in case, the crew keeps watch from the secret base.