Monday, May 25, 2009

Breaking Through Poverty: Chicken a la Carte

Originally published on WireTap.

A little girl digging in a trashcan for spaghetti.

I couldn’t erase that image from my mind after a friend recently showed me a film on the poverty and hunger caused by globalization. Directed by Ferdinand Dimadura, the film Chicken a la Carte is a six-minute tour of the world of an impoverished Filipino community that lives in stark contrast to its country’s urban elite. Whereas well-off teens dine at the biggest international food-chains, this community lives off of the scraps left behind in trashcans after closing time.

This isn’t just happening in the Philippines, the film reminds the viewer in the end. Scenes like this can be found all over the globe, from the streets of Los Angeles to the slums of Bangladesh. Around the world, we have 25,000 people dying of hunger every single day. 25,000 people. What’s more scary is that this statistic is probably outdated, since Dimadura made the film back in 2005. With a global economic crisis on our hands, how much further will this number climb?

The whole economic crisis facing us today came about because of one very old human problem: greed. People in key decision-making positions wanted just another car, or just another house, or just the pleasure of knowing they have an extra million or so set aside. So they let things spiral out of control.

And let’s face it, this crisis is partly our fault as well. Those of us who live in a culture of consumption that doesn’t separate want from need, that throws aside the barely bought for the just released, and expects nothing less than free refills with our supersized meals while people are living off of a piece of bread a day. We are not innocent.

But it’s not because we’re evil. We all care about our kids, our neighbors and our friends. Heck, we even care about those people in far-off parts of the world that news broadcasts and films like Dimadura’s thrust in our faces every once in a while. We feel sorry, wish we could do something, and then drown back into our own lives until we are reminded of them again. A vicious cycle.

But one we can break. Although this global economic crisis is making things more difficult for a lot of us around the world, it also gives us an opportunity to reevaluate the culture of consumption we’ve awoken to find ourselves in. This is a culture that provides relative luxury for a minority at the expense of an impoverished majority. It is also a culture with a built-in time-bomb: things can only go so well for so long before the system implodes on itself. And when that happens, the circle of privilege shrinks even further, throwing many of us out to join those already in the fields of global poverty.

As we work towards a solution for our current crisis, we have the chance to recreate the culture we have found ourselves in.

But will we take that chance?

If we do, we have the power to transform films like Dimadura’s from stark portrayals of our current reality into fading images of a distant memory.


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