Saturday, 23 March 2013

Comic Relief’s ‘Red Nose Day’ 25 Years On!

Last Saturday was Red Nose Day’s 25th Anniversary, and one of the UK’s premier charity fund raising events. A concept and television and radio driven event designed to elevate awareness of poverty and raise significant amount to funds via comedic stand-up acts, humorous theatrical productions, high profile funny for money TV challenges and on-the-street and school fund raisers.

‘Davis Brent’ (the first person to get 9 million hits on iPOD, bless) did an update rendition of ‘The Office’ 10 years on. Pop star Jessie Jay shaved her head to raise some funny money! One Direction was filmed in Africa, crying with despair (with their million pound contract). Mr Bean played a cranky Bishop (he lives in mansion house in Kent). The Gay Dr gave out some emollient cream (Ooo! Madam).  And Simon Cowell, well, ‘I would thee trove!’ You did something ‘funny for money’ (www.BBC.Co.UK/rednoseday)! And this kind of satirical kindness does ease anguish somewhat.

Red Nose Day and other kin do a lot of decent work from these efforts. Often saving lives. But they are acutely short-term and definitely not systemic solutions that bring poverty to an end. The trouble is that Red Nose type events are so pervasive, so extravaganza, and run by people that haven’t a clue about moving from such ‘Zero-Sum’ strategies (which is what they are engaging in) to ‘Positive-Sum’ policy and approaches. That it totally whitewashes and overshadows the real issue!

Poverty is not merely a sociological, short-term phenomenon. So what then? What is the alternative as I criticize as Red Nose Day?

The prime cause of poverty is technological – period! Look at any modern economy that is thriving or beginning to grow (BRICS, E7 and N11) and they will be a technologically advanced nations or emerging as a technological state.

What are needed are technological strategies and tools that attack poverty systemically. Positive sum strategies where the whole is greater than the sum! So, before we look at the underlying technological issues and solutions, take a look at the outcomes of poverty. Where much of the effort is focussed.

Wheel spinning governments, analytical pecuniary institutions and malignant demand-based charities utter the inconsiderate benchmarks for what they consider poverty to be. They overtly say that 4 billion people on this planet live under or somewhere around the so-called poverty-line. A billion people live under the fiscal measure of on or below 2 dollars a day. And of course the institutes must know, they are wise after all.
Well, I have been around for 50 years and travelled the world. Yes, much has been at the behest of corporate edicts and generous expenses; but much has been at the will of a rucksack and walking shoes around inner India, Africa and East Asia. And my experiences and definition of poverty is far from merely fiscal.

So let me tell you what poverty is, and more’s the point, what poverty does.  Here’s quote from my forthcoming book:

Poverty is complex! A huge variable condition set by growing populations outpacing productivity, ultimately leading to extreme economic margin. In times of crisis it is children and families wasting away; babies shrilling and emaciated souls lying curled up in filthy rags. It is inaccess to clean water, sustenance, basic medicines and shelter.
But it is the immeasurable lack of voice, resolve and loss of dignity that truly opens up comprehension to poverty. It is subjection to exploitation and exposure to indifference, humiliation and inhumane treatment from not merely the haves; but the public services and instruments from which the poor look for help.
It means emotional pain, server anxiety and fear, and bone deep tears caused by infringement of basic human rights and sensibilities, that you the reader take for granted. It is an inability, even curfew to maintain cultural identity, customs, traditions and personal beliefs; an insufferable incapacity to participate in society and breakdown in equality; and not least, it is vulnerability and exposure to dangers, risks and gross uncertainties that whither character and soul.

Hence, the definition of living on under 730 dollars a year does not even begin to break the surface of describing what 1 billion people wake up to every day. On my journeys I have spoken to many trapped in a spectrum of dearth. I asked them to tell me their experiences:

‘I can’t voice my opinion. And when I do speak, they talk over me. I ask for little. I feel demoralised, anxious and a feeling of second citizen to people I know I should be equal.’

Well, that is real poverty; and a prospective that few people living in advanced nation economies get to understand; even when, in fact, it can be knocking the door. Because the surprise here, is that the person I spoke to just above lives at the YMCA in Brighton, my home town in the UK. Not Somalia or Ethiopia. But in one of the highest living standard cities in the world!

My message is that hopeless poverty is just that - if it is left at that. Because by viewing hardship and living deficiencies as a way to target technologies that relieve such deprivation, then that is a systemic ‘Positive-Sum’ strategy for ending poverty! And this is something we must take exceedingly serious, because in terms of population growth, by 2030, Asia and Africa will account for ~87 percent, where the majority of world poverty resides.

Below are a number of my blog posts (some new) that outline herculean strides and ventures in science, technology and real-world projects that really do begin to tackle poverty, disease and gross inequality.Be Sociable, Share!








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