Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts (Episode 2)

In this episode my attention was drawn most to Richard the working-class boy made good on a journey discovering that good intention and even stellar motivation alone does not eradicate poverty.

His point was that -- because he has done so -- anyone could make a better life for himself. All you need is an education. Go to night school if necessary.

I think it is good for this nation that young people can have role models like Richard: I was poor, I worked hard, now I am doing well.

I, too, was poor. I grew up with five other siblings sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor in a one-bedroomed flat. We were then allocated a two-bedroomed flat elsewhere. We still slept on the floor.

We had one table which was used for food preparation, meals and then homework. We had no wardrobes and clothes were kept in boxes (old wooden fruit crates), etc. As for clothes I wore discards all the time.

When I made it to university (thank God Singapore had a meritocratic system then) there were times when I didn't have a clue where my next meal was coming from (I had to work to put myself through university) and often simply went hungry.

Books? I did not have money to buy books. I did not even have money to photocopy books/essays like all my friends. Instead I made copious notes.

I made good because I lived in a culture where hard work and a good education could turn your life around. And it was when studying urban anthropology at university that I learned about the culture of poverty.

Please if you are a friend of Richard, ask him to put in search engine "culture of poverty". The anthropologist Oscar Lewis first enlightened us on how those caught in this 'subculture' of poverty often do not have the means to get out of it.

So Richard quizzed a tailor, "Why are you not going to night school?"

Richard is correct to think that a good/better education/skills set will help the impoverished to get out of this cycle of poverty. What he has yet to learn (but he seems to be learning this well if slowly as we see on his train journey at the end of this episode) that often it is not as simple as signing up for night school.

The other members of the team are slowly coming round to understanding that "it does not seem fair" that while they pay some £10 for an item of clothing, the worker only gets 12p.

Question is what would Richard, self-made ad-man, do about the people caught in the cycle of poverty after he tires from effing and blinding about the conditions in which his Indian hosts live? Would he now be equipped with some inspiration as to how this cycle could be broken?

What would the aspiring designer, photographer, etc amongst the group do when they get home about the plight of the thousands of workers in back-street sweatshops in India and elsewhere in the world?

Would Tara, when she becomes a designer (I'm sure she'd be a good one), allow sweatshops to produce her designs?

Next week they apparently do the actual cotton picking. I wonder if they get exposed to the huge amounts of pesticides used?

Just some thoughts.

Thoughts on Episode 1 here.

Back to Organic-Ally.

No comments: