Most of the paper used for these are made in the US. The two exceptions are a couple of the flowery-printed handmade paper (found in the second and fourth pictures) which is made by a cooperative of women in India. The paper is supposed to be used as wrapping paper, but I found it too beautiful for just that purpose, so I’ve been recycling it. I got it at a local store that specializes in selling fair trade gifts.
Sneak peak at the new merch I’m making for the summer; coming to you hot off the porch! I’m looking to sell these bad boys, among others, at some artisan markets. That is if I can find some other suitable means of employment for the summer in the next few days in the Grand Rapids area. Wish me luck!
So I was catching up on The Daily Show last night and this segment came on. First of all, I would like to say that I admire the way The Daily Show is able to point out that what in the mainstream news is supposed to be seen as intelligent, serious debate is actually ludicrous and laughable.* I also am fully aware that it is not an official news source, but these days, what is? I appreciate that the show brings some really serious flaws with our current political structure, and the thinking of those who find themselves broadcasting about that political structure, to light. With that being said, here is my response to the information that is presented in the video:
It pains me to think that I live in a country where people believe that the poor are the “moocher class.” While I am not disputing whether or not there are people that abuse the system (I am sure that there are) it is unjust and egregious to assume that every person that is poor is so because he/she doesn’t want to work and is content being an economic parasite. Those who assume such things act as if they’ve never paid attention to the news**, the economic status of the country in which they reside, or have ever come in contact with anyone who has made less than $100,000 a year.
In what ways are these people who are supposed to be broadcasting the news exhibiting that they really know nothing about current events? Well it is no secret that unemployment has been high, and underemployment even higher. And I’m sure even a simpleton knows that many blue-collar jobs have been sent overseas which has led to greater profit for those who are running the company and the demise of many of those who were seen merely as “dispensable” employees. Jobs that were once seen as secure no longer are and that has created a growing poor class in America along with the greater need for government assistance (a necessary evil in many cases.) Somehow, these political pundits and politicians seem blissfully unaware that in fact these numbers are affecting actual humans and have hit the poor FIRST. What do they need to worry about though, really? They are just phantom numbers, rendered arbitrary in their lives. I mean they still have jobs… for now.
The video made me think of another, more serious video (film, technically) I saw recently called, A Place at the Table and how I wished those saying that the poor are nothing but a moocher class would sit down and watch what is happening to their own country. Here is the trailer for that, but know that it does not do justice to the heart-break that one receives when watching the full film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArI_ZHc-n5A.***
If you ask anyone in this second film if they take pleasure from getting government assistance, from feeding their children food that is in many cases handicapping them both temporarily and permanently due to lack of sufficient nutrition, I guarantee that they would say “absolutely not.” But as one woman in the film who is working a low-paying job along with going to school says: “you can’t tell your kids that they’ll eat in two years.” The government assistance which -ahem- ISN’T MUCH and means that they can primarily afford food-like substances such as soda, is what is keeping them alive. I believe that is what sickens me most about the juxtaposition of these two videos -the parts about the soda. In The Daily Show video, one person claims that if we tax soda, it is only hurting the poor. Yes, because all poor need soda to survive (insert eye roll here)… well let me amend that: calorically, yes, in a way they do, nutritionally, no, it is killing them. It is one of the few foods that they can afford, true, but why? More importantly, who would the tax on soft drinks actually be hurting? The poor or the producers of the soft drinks?
“Mooching for life” takes on a whole new meaning here… many of the poor in America are forced to humiliate themselves by essentially begging for food and then receiving food that is basically poison. With that, at least the politicians can rest assured that the “mooching for life” that the poor are doing won’t be for too long because they will die sooner than those who do not need to subsist on nutritionally inert foods paid for by government hand-outs.****
I shall finish this post where The Daily Show video begins: with the quote from the man lamenting that there are “people who are perfectly content to live at the expense of others.” Honestly I couldn’t agree more with this statement. It is abhorrent that we have a group of people in this country who are willing to compromise others’ health, security, and even lives for their own fortunes. Maybe the poor wouldn’t mooch if the greedy class didn’t take so much from them to begin with.
*Well, perhaps tears of a clown describes it better.
**which they are somehow in charge of broadcasting
***It is important to note that this film does not tell the whole welfare story in this country and shows only those with heart-wrenching stories for a reason. It is just as biased as those who claim that the poor is a moocher class (or just as biased as I am, for that matter), but together it is easier to get a glimpse at what is actually going on.
****What are subsidies but glorified government hand-outs anyway?
When I heard what name Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had chosen for his Papacy, I smiled and thought: “How fitting.” Francis. While I am not Catholic (although I did go to a Catholic college) my favorite saint is Francis of Assisi and I knew without even watching this video that that was who his inspiration was.
Saint Francis (Francis of Assisi or San Francisco for my latino amigos) lived a luxurious life during his adolescence but slowly began to see his love of money, luxury, and beauty was his biggest downfall. He started giving everything he had away or disposing of it anyway he could. He slowly gained followers and they took up the passage Matthew 19:16-26 (the story where Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to sell everything and give to the poor) as their adage. Saint Francis served the poor from then on.
While Latin America holds the largest percentage of the Catholic population with 39%, or over 425 million of the world’s Catholics living there, it also has about 167 million people living in poverty. This number is also significant as it marks the lowest level of poverty in Latin America in three decades. Pope Francis lived in Latin America during a time where the continent had some of its biggest struggles with class and unequal distribution of wealth. He has seen first hand the devastating affects that poverty can have on people and society and during his time as a Cardinal there he chose to live alongside the poor rather than above them just as Saint Francis had done. I suspect this will be his approach to his papacy as well.
¡Viva el papa de Latinoamérica, el papa de la pobre!
One of the most frustrating things about the issues of poverty and social justice is that often times it feels like no one really cares. Sure many people may hear a statistic or see a picture of a hungry baby and feel sad, but they usually carry on with their day virtually unaffected. Or worse yet, they are confronted by a homeless person on the street and they hand them a couple bucks or some loose change in the hope that that will appease them. In the hope that they will disappear. They refuse to engage them, hear their story, acknowledge that they are human, and they especially try their hardest not to think of them again. They are part of the scenery of a big city, not people, just ugly, moving statues that for some reason terrify those who are more fortunate. Why is this?
I believe there are many reasons why, but one of the main reasons is that it either doesn’t affect them or they refuse to believe that it affects them. Many rational and intelligent people can see that certain issues, if they don’t affect them now, can affect them in the future, making those issues easier to take up. Causes like cancer awareness/research, environmental issues, domestic violence, etc while all noble, are to varying degrees tainted with the threat that it will affect the person intimately at some point in their lives. Rarely do people (in the US especially) see poverty affecting them intimately until it is too late. That is because wealth (or perceived wealth) is the cultural norm and it is thus revered as a fulfillment of our constitutional obligation to the pursuit of happiness.
Poverty is also ignored by the masses because it means that people have to care and get emotionally involved. They know it is easier to keep emotions at a platonic level so that their lives can remain unchallenged and thus unchanged. Change means being uncomfortable, or worse yet, could lead to pain and most people (especially in the West) do everything to avoid discomfort. They keep their eyes down, keep their slippers at the edge of their bed, buy and install electric towel warmers in their bathrooms, start their cars from indoors to warm it up on a snowy day, and most tragically, they have refused to talk about the issues that really matter.
Quickly, however, this obsession with comfort creates a numbing effect. Because people can no longer feel pain or discomfort, they can no longer feel joy and connection. As Brené Brown said in her TED Talk: “You cannot selectively numb emotion.” Furthermore, when people seek to numb their emotions they end up numbing the most human part of themselves. Thus it is imperative to understand that when people refuse to take on the burdens of others and become emotionally invested in their stories, they are not only denying those “others” but also denying their own humanity.
This is a great 6.5 min long lesson on inequality. Nothing new, but good visual presentation of data. A little warning: it may cause a bit of anger or depression..
Poverty is a very complex issue and that is what makes it difficult to combat. For that reason, I am writing this post to quickly address what the issues surrounding poverty may include so that if I talk about these sub-issue later on, it is understood in that these are not coming from left-field, but are relevant to the topic of global poverty. The problematic issues include:
- Agricultural Subsidies
- Zero-Sum Game/Fallacy
- Health -Venereal Diseases, Malaria, Obstetric Fistulas, etc
- Ecological Health
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Food Scarcity/Surplus
- Foreign Aid
And of course a few solution-oriented (and slightly less tangible) issues that I’ve touched on already in this blog:
- Freedom (from and to)
For more information on the problems surrounding the issue of poverty (and ideas on how they can be solved) I recommend checking out this website: http://www.povertycure.org/issues/ and/or watching the DVD series: “Poverty Cure.”
Poverty Cure was created by the Acton Institute -an economic think-tank in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This campaign conducted a solution-oriented look at global poverty and empowers not only those who are impoverished, but also those who may not be and are concerned about poverty. In the words of my friend Matthea who worked on the project: “It makes you feel proud to be a human!”
I am currently working on a large project (a prezi, to be exact) on poverty and economic inequality. (Yes, this is what I do for fun.) I will be posting it when I have finished it, but until then, I will give a teaser (or two).
When researching poverty facts I came across this quote that I found to be quite poignant and combines a lot of different ideas that I am learning in my post-grad study of economics, work, human development, etc.
“Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth, which is only a means—if a very important one—of enlarging people’s choices.” –Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Program (found here: http://www.globalissues.org/article/4/poverty-around-the-world)
By this definition it can be argued that even some countries traditionally seen as developed are actually under-developed. Take the US for example. Has the country really done what the second sentence of the quote says? With underemployment near 20% and people holding on to their jobs regardless of whether is matches their skill-set, interests, and needs, the answer is no. People in the US are not reaching their full potential in the working world.
Meanwhile, economic disparity is at an all-time high and the richest 1% of the population is still getting richer. This is contrary to means of development, however, and economic inequality that high is actually something that is found in many developing countries. In fact, according to an NPR article, the US’s economic inequality rivals that of the Sub-Saharan African countries of Cameroon and the Ivory Coast. These countries according to the 2011 UN Human Development index rank 150th and 170th respectively on the development scale. This raises an important set of questions: is it possible for a country to move backward on this scale and is that the future for the US? With all the talk of “racing to the bottom” that is creeping up in economic conversations, it is getting harder to answer those questions with a “no.”
Whispered rumors of revolution are blowing through the country. The economy is floundering, people are losing all that they have worked for, and the debts are mounting: a perfect formula for change. Those at the bottom have become the first to receive the blows and as more and more people’s wealth and security are destroyed they begin to see the flaws in the system and join the movement to advocate change. Workers are no longer being taken care of, and everyone is at risk.
This is a time of revolution, and it is one that may not look like any other. This revolution is far more covert. It is the creative revolution. No longer will the US working world be filled with drones and robot-like humans, rather with people who have ideas of their own. It will be a full embrace of the individualism that the US has always preached, but never actually achieved. People will be seen as valuable and in Seth Godin‘s words they will be “indispensable.”
We hear more rumors of this in other places too. TED notoriously has speakers preaching this idea. From David Kelley, to Julie Burstein, and Elizabeth Gilbert to Sir Ken Robinson’s two talks on this subject, all these speakers believe that the time is now to release the creative genius in all of us in order to not only have personal fulfillment but to make society more productive.
We hear the success stories of countless risk-takers who made invaluable contributions to society because they were willing to let themselves be creative and different. Apple. Google. Inception. Gotye. All vastly different contributions to the world, but all were hugely successful because of their uniqueness, creativity, and because they were fueled by a vision.
The world before today was full of mediocrity. Not because the people of that time were mediocre intrinsically, but because they CHOSE mediocrity. Because the world rewarded mediocrity with stability. Cue Seth Godin and his book Linchpin:
“Where does Average Come From?
It comes from two places:
1. You have been brainwashed by school and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job and follow instructions. It’s not, not anymore.
2. Everyone has a little voice inside of their head that’s angry and afraid. That voice is the resistance–your lizard brain–and it wants you to be average (and safe).
If you’re not doing as well as you hoped, perhaps it’s because the rules of the game were changed, and no one told you.
The rules were written just over two hundred years ago; they worked for a long time, but no longer. It might take you more than a few minutes to learn the new rules, but it’s worth it.“
Today, those old constructions are crumbling. What the world needs now are people who think for themselves -those who are willing to offer fresh ideas and new perspectives.
The good news is that every person on the planet is able to do this job if they allow themselves. We are all creative by nature and are all unique, but we must take a risk to unleash that creative potential. With the past promises of security crumbling, there is very little to lose. The time is now. Jump into the revolution.
My shop is open on Etsy! Check it out here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/RLCreate