A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from Canada was in town on business and stayed with me for the weekend. As we looked through a Los Angeles guidebook, he told me he wanted to make sure we stopped at a Target. Apparently there are no Targets in Canada, and he wanted to buy some clothes there before he left.
I rarely shop at Target (and don't buy clothes when I do) and I was shocked at how low the prices were for clothes -- in many cases, lower than I remember them being as a kid when my mom would take me shopping there. How could Target be turning a profit?
I had recently seen the documentary The End of Poverty? (see part 1 of my interview with TEOP writer/director/cinematographer Philippe Diaz), and something that had been on my mind since then is the concept that the US and other countries in the northern hemisphere are rich because we are impoverishing hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the southern hemisphere.
So I started checking the tags of the clothes to find out where they were made. What I found was a list of countries where millions of people live in abject poverty: Cambodia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh, India, El Salvador, the Philippines, Nicaragua. Most didn't have information about where the raw materials came from, but I'm guessing that would provide yet another list of impoverished cotton-growing countries.
You don't have to charge much to make a profit when your products are made from stolen materials and assembled by people earning slave wages. And as people buying those products and benefiting from that "value", we are encouraging the continuation of that cruel system. With an economic philosophy in the northern hemisphere that requires more and more consumption and waste to fuel corporate growth for growth's sake, the amount of theft, slavery, suffering and environmental damage will only get worse. Unless we change the system, it will collapse under its own unsustainability -- or the victims of that system will revolt and smash it.
That's why Philippe Diaz made The End of Poverty? (click here to find out when/where it's showing near you). Below are more excerpts from my interview with him.
On why the discredited theory of "trickle-down" economics is alive and well and how the inequality it promotes inevitably leads to terrorism.
Diaz discusses the image of kids in Kibera, Kenya that became the poster for TEOP and why poverty affects children the most.
On how the people of the northern hemisphere must embrace a new system of "de-growth" to avoid a worldwide economic crisis and how the current crisis was not only predictable, but was predicted by many of the experts Diaz interviewed for the film.
On why so many of the solutions to end poverty suggested by the rich and powerful make no sense and were not included in TEOP.
How making The End of Poverty? showed Diaz how land, who owns it and how it is used is the key to what creates and can end poverty.
On how the tax burden has been shifted primarily to the poor through taxes on labor and consumption, and how increasing taxes on property and idle land would help rebalance the system.
Diaz explains why individual acts of conscience and kindness are important but will do little to end poverty unless we fundamentally change the system that causes it.
To see all the clips from my interview with Philippe Diaz, check out this YouTube playlist.
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