Nov 13, 2009
Beyond The Multiplex
"The End of Poverty?": How the rich steal from the poor
Does a confrontational new documentary try to resurrect Marx for the 21st century? And is that such a bad idea?
By Andrew O'Hehir
So here's the real question about capitalism, the one nobody really wants to face: Does it create gross inequality as an unfortunate byproduct of its energy and dynamism -- or is gross inequality itself, between rich and poor, between the industrialized North and the underdeveloped South, the principal product of capitalism over the last five centuries?
..."The End of Poverty?" seeks to remind us that the global victory of capitalism over the last 30 years has only brought its flaws into sharper focus. We now live in a world where 20 percent of the population -- that's you and me, bub -- use 80 percent of its resources, where upward of 1 billion people live on $1 a day or less, where 16,000 children die daily from malnutrition and where the people of sub-Saharan Africa, the globe's poorest region, spend $25,000 every minute servicing their massive debt to the rich countries of the North.
All those markers of extreme poverty have gotten dramatically worse since the '80s; despite rapid technological and agricultural progress in the developed world, the number of people suffering from chronic malnutrition has roughly doubled in the past 40 years....
It's become conventional to blame the culture and climate of poor countries and poor people, at least in part, for their own plight, as if corrupt dictatorships, ethnic warfare and raw-material economies were somehow intrinsic to Africa and Latin America. In depressing but largely convincing fashion, Diaz's film argues that all those things were the result of a lengthy historical process. Africa's dysfunctional and often anti-democratic regimes definitely aren't helping matters, for example, but they themselves -- along with the dire poverty they can't manage -- were produced by the European and North American powers' relationship to the global South, from 16th-century colonization right through 21st-century globalization...