Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: 1

Three years ago last July, I joined the thousands in the Make Poverty History event held in Edinburgh. The participants in the march around Edinburgh's historic city centre were from many backgrounds, a coalition of campaign groups, charities, religious groups, trade unions and individuals who wanted to try and make a difference. From babies to the elderly, and from most, if not all, ethnic backgrounds.

The sea of people in white walking down Princess Street was something to see with your own eyes, and be part of.

But it achieved fuck all.

There was some disappointment from many who thought, like me, that Bob Geldof's Live 8 hijacked the event, focussing media attention on the televised concerts and pretty people looking concerned. His event turned the eyes away from Edinburgh to the wealthy stars who arrived in jets and limos, performing in their designer gear to a crowd consisting largely of the label generation.

This wasn't helped by MPH's own little branding tool, the white band.

The reality is, that after the events, the world's governments got on with business as usual carving up the world for their wealthy benefactors.

Despite the disappointment and lack of global action, it doesn't mean we should give up. As well as global justice, there's poverty on our streets, in our faces. But our government don't care about these people. They don't invite you to posh dinners, contribute to election campaigns. Bejaysus - most of them don't even vote! MPH was one of those things which helped politicise me and realise that the current raft of the three 'grey' political parties really don't give a shit about anyone.

I'm lucky enough not to have experienced extreme poverty. Whilst our family was one of the many thousands to exposed to Thatcher's brutal and ruthless culling of traditional Tyneside industries I was young enough not to realise or not care that we were poor. Looking back, I'm under no illusions - despite some of the hardships we encountered we had food on our table and a roof over our heads. There were many people in South Shields and on our own estate much worse off than us.

The Thatcher era heralded a me, me, me UK which is still with us today, from the rich robber bankers to the feckless hoodies and chavs, to twats in 4x4s parking on pavements. This is as much as a poverty of ethics, expectations and responsibility. No such thing as society.

Now the world is experiencing a brief blip in it's economic fortunes, partly because of greed, partly because of stupidity and partly because of the strict adherence to the religion of free market economics. Many people in the UK will suffer, but the repercussions will fall the hardest on the developing nations as the developed nations reign in aid spending.

It's a disturbing irony that since MPH western governments have kept their hands and their cash in their pockets whilst developing nations struggled, yet quickly found money to throw at the financial system.

Blog Action Day is in a small way, with thousands of people, trying to keep the issue of poverty on the agenda. If we keep having the conversation, we won't be letting anyone forget.

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