Friday, 18 September 2009

Make Poverty History

Few weeks back while travelling in a train in the UK, I found myself sitting in front of a seemingly learned white gentleman who was deeply engrossed in reading through a folder that might have contained essays by his students (assuming that he is in teaching profession). The nature of those papers did not intrigue me; what did intrigue me was a band on his wrist: Make Poverty History. No, it was not for the first time that I had seen this band. I was aware of its existence as much as of the poverty itself. The global call to wear the white band, if I am not wrong, was in 2005 when millions in the UK alone displayed the band-istic solidarity. And I must admit that for the first few seconds or may be for a minute or two, I was completely mesmerized, in fact, I was in awe of this gentleman, whose impeccable deep-in-thought reading posture meticulously matched by his golden rim glasses transposed the meaning of the words scribbled on the band to a completely different level: to a philosophical nexus of capitalism and corporatism of our modern world that not only produces but also makes poverty somehow acceptable. And simultaneously it also reinforced the idea that some people feel and believe that it can be eradicated. These thoughts empowered me. I felt that I am part of his world, the world that conveys deep meanings through simplest of the simple mediums. I felt that I do want to march ahead, with hands in hands, and wrists in wrists, to bulldoze the ramparts of ‘business of high politics’ and ‘politics of high business’ where poverty is both produced and caricatured. Well, if you’re now awe-struck at the twist of this phrase, I will let you know a little secret: these are not mine; I borrowed them from Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram, a book which also talks about poverty and philosophy – a philosophy wherein every object or idea is in transition to achieve a higher plane of resolution and the poverty which is not shameful of its existence. It is the poverty which is aware of its limitation and resilient of its strength, which both performs and mimics itself at the margins of the society and yet provides crucial linkages to the mechanisms of the society that is pretty much mainstream. It is the poverty which is residing within the web of the poorers and yet which is tied to the strings of power and prestige, money and charity that influences or rather constitutes it from outside. While in the train I was not encountered by these thoughts although I had read the Shantaram months ago. What also kept me preoccupied in my banal devilish thinking was not the belief in emancipation (that was momentary, as emancipation, very akin to desire, itself is. Echoes of limitations of Buddhism?) But the idea fiddling in my mind was that if Poverty becomes History then we all will be rich. If this sounds like a mistaken generalization, then, I further qualified my thought: may be not rich but richer. Still this relativism, I argued in my mind, would mean that we need another band: Make Lesser Rich More Richer, or, Less is More and many more, some interesting and some uninteresting one-liners, kept swimming in my head until I naively realized that the few hundreds amongst those millions on the streets of the UK must have bought their shirts or trousers from the Primark whose in-house and off-shore manufacturing must have involved a few hundred of Bangladeshi children working 16 hours a day and wishing to get richer.