I first saw this documentary about two years ago and watched it again yesterday and felt compelled to write this piece. The main purpose of the documentary is to question the fact that when there is so much wealth in the world (and so many precious resources within developing countries), why does poverty still exist? Although this may seem like a simple question that has a simple answer, the The End of Poverty illustrates the complex issues involved with poverty. The first, being from a historical context: the consequences of military conquests by Spain and Portugal, the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism are all considered as explicit reasons as to why the majority of people in countries like Asia, Africa and Latin America still live in poverty. Although having said this, I would like to stress my own personal frustration at the media’s constant portrayal of Africa as a helpless continent that constantly relies on aid from the West to keep the people of Africa going. This is not the case. The decisions and actions that have been carefully established and maintained since the years of colonialism have left devastating effects on the countries that were stripped of their land, access to natural resources, unfair trade, debt repayment, unjust taxes on labour and consumption and tax evasion. The system of poverty was and still is kept alive by free market policies and structural adjustment programmes, which are controlled by manipulative financial institutions and multinational corporations. Although the film dwelled a lot on the historical reasons of poverty, it also highlighted the predominant economic system, which essentially requires cheap labour and cheap resources from the South in order to finance the North’s expensive lifestyle. Author Susan George, who featured in the documentary even went as far as to suggest that sub-Saharan Africa pays $ 25, 000 every minute to Northern creditors and in doing so are actually financing the West making Britain and America and other developed countries richer and Africa and Asia poorer. In other words, the West has exploited fellow human beings on this Earth so much so, that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes more than the planet can regenerate.
Philippe Diaz’s documentary is a very truthful and thought-provoking piece of work that must be seen by everybody who has an interest in global issues and/or history. I like to dwell on the positive things that developing countries have achieved however this documentary is definitely worth watching. It is this kind of cultural intervention that still gives hope that more extreme measures can be taken to reduce and eventually eradicate this system and business of poverty that does not benefit the people and countries that it really should.
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