I was then prepared to cite many studies of how the subject of poverty has disappeared from much of the mainstream the way human rights activists used to "disappear" in Argentina after the military goons took power. I was overloaded with over researched facts and quotes but, alas, I had already run out of time before I even began.
My moment in the UN sun was suddenly clouded by the reality of a forum with more speakers than time to hear them all.
Happily, there were some folks there who are engaged in the poverty fight every day.
Members of a Mennonite mission based on Sugar Hill in Harlem spoke of their work as volunteers in overwhelmed food pantries in New York, and showcased their religious devotion with an upbeat hymn. Their sincerity and sense of sacrifice was evident. It was a small group--some from Kansas and Mississippi, but all devoted to a big idea--serving their God and the poor with unpaid community service.
Perhaps, the most impressive and passionate advocate in the room. was Aaron Campbell, an articulate Philadelphia-based minister who runs the Angoon Alive Project in Alaska where Native Americans are getting help with sustainable entrepreneurial employment projects, aided by micro-loans.
He showed slides detailing the extreme and obscene poverty on Native American reservations like Pine Ridge in South Dakota with a growing suicide rate and rampant social problems that just go on. Everyone was impressed with his commitment to his people and to waking the rest of us about their plight.
It was a small forum in a small room on a Winter Day overlooking what they used to call Turtle Bay and today call the East River. We were all driven by some sense of duty to making this issue matter, and to show that there are solutions out there if anyone is listening. We each spoke of the world's failure to respond. I tried to ring a bell about media myopia.
These exercises go on every day--at least someone is trying to make a difference. Writing, in of all places, the Financial Times, a capitalist tool if there ever was one, Simon Kupfer noted:
"You'd have thought the economic crisis would have made poverty newsy. "If it bleeds, it leads" is a journalistic maxim, and the Cambridge sociologist David Stuckler found sharp increases in suicides in recession-hit European countries after 2008. The crisis arguably caused 1,000 "excess" suicides in England alone.
But they weren't news. The global poor -- 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day -- are considered even more boring, due to the triple whammy of being non-white, non-Anglophone and poor. To become news, poor people have to cause disorder. Middle-class people raise issues by writing; poor people do it by rioting."
Will it have to come to that? What else is to be done?
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