Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Global Favela

The nightmare vision of our global future outlined in Mike Davis's Planet of Slums seems to be fast coming to reality — 20 Statistics That Prove That Global Wealth Is Being Funneled Into The Hands Of The Elite – Leaving Most Of The Rest Of The World Wretchedly Poor. The first paragraph:
    Today global wealth is more highly concentrated in the hands of the elite than it ever has been at any other point in modern history. Once upon a time, the vast majority of the people in the world knew how to grow their own food, raise their own animals and take care of themselves. There weren't many that were fabulously wealthy, but there was a quiet dignity in having land you could call your own or in having a skill that you could turn into a business. Sadly, over the past several decades an increasingly growing percentage of agricultural land has been gobbled up by big corporations and by corrupt governments. Hundreds of millions of people have been pushed off their land and into highly concentrated urban areas. Meanwhile, it has become increasingly difficult to start a business of your own as monolithic global corporations have come to dominate nearly every sector of the world economy. So more people than ever around the world are forced to work for "the system" just to make a living. At the same time, those at the very top of the food chain (the elite) have spent decades rigging the system to ensure that increasing amounts of wealth will continue to flow into their pockets. So now in 2010 we have a global system where a few elitists at the top are insanely wealthy while about half the people living on earth are wretchedly poor. [Emphases mine.]
Dorothy Day made similar points to those emphasized above about the difference between traditional, rural poverty and modern, urban destitution, as did Ivan Illich. "Modernized poverty," he said in Toward a History of Needs, "appears when the intensity of market dependence reaches a certain threshold" and "deprives those affected by it of their freedom and power to act autonomously, to live creatively; it confines them to survival through being plugged into market relations."

Theodore Dalrymple, who "first started thinking about poverty... as a doctor during the early eighties in the Gilbert Islands," expressed some similar thoughts in his article Sympathy Deformed. "Much of the population still lived outside the money economy, and the per-capita GDP was therefore extremely low," he notes. "It did not seem to me, however, that the people were very poor. Their traditional way of life afforded them what anthropologists call a generous subsistence; their coconuts, fish, and taros gave them an adequate—and, in some respects, elegant—living."

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