Too many people today are interested in celebrities. But they are interested, and that makes celebrities effective organs in transmitting ideas. And that is what the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign has played on, with Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and Jamelia donning the plastic or silicon white bands adorned with the words ‘Make Poverty History’. I applaud the sentiment. No right minded person would suggest that poverty makes a positive contribution to modern society. But what can a wristband do?
Maybe it identifies those whose heart is against poverty. And what is the reason for poverty? There is enough food in the world, that is well known. How do we get food? By paying for it? Is there enough money to pay for the world to eat? Yes. So what’s the problem?
The money to pay for the world to survive is in the wrong place. That is the problem. But it’s okay, there seems to be a campaign to redirect this money; to get trade justice, to drop the debt, to get more and better aid. And, wow, Sienna Miller is supporting the campaign. If she is, musn’t it be right? She wore a white wristband at the BAFTAs, and wow, that gives it credibility. This ignores one simple fact. There is poverty because there is excess.
When Sienna Miller wore that wonderful wristband, she was also wearing a wonderful Alexander McQueen dress. Those dresses have sold for up to $57000.
Is that not a little excessive? ‘This is ridiculous!’ we say, ‘as students and reasonable people we should rise up against this hypocrisy!’. And it is ridiculous, no reasonable person disputes that.
But hang on. Do we not also live in excess? Perhaps not the same level of excess as our dear Sienna, but excess. Your typical York student would not be complete if not for the odd trip to Ziggy’s, and that costs money. We can’t say that a visit to Ziggy’s is vital for our livelihood, and so the money that we spend doing this is purely excess. Perhaps we do not spend as much as some people, certainly not as much as Sienna Miller or James students. But we all certainly spend more than we need to, and that is excess.
So if we support the wristband campaign, aren’t we all just as hypocritical as Sienna Miller? Well yes I suppose we are. Despite all of this, the fact remains that there are those who live in excess, and those who die and suffer because of excess.
I don’t think that most people are strong enough to redress their excess on their own, it involves so much sacrifice. The only substantial way is to work together, and institutionalize fairness so that it’s doable.
So let’s wear our hearts on our sleeves, or anywhere else for that matter. We all have that heart, and wearing a white band saying so isn’t doing any harm, it might just give us that collective confidence to do something about it.