What is poverty? What drives it? Or stops it? And how have our attitudes to the poor changed over the years?
Poor Us is animated film takes you on a dream-like journey through history and poverty, examining attitudes, drivers and solutions from the early hunter gatherers to today’s financial meltdown.
For most of history,”everybody in the world was poor”, points out economist Jeffrey Sachs. As societies got richer, they developed different attitudes to poverty. The Ancient Greeks seemed to think poverty was essential: “Drive me, Poverty, out of Greece! That would be a disaster for humanity! If wealth were equally distributed , then no-one will ever work again”.
The Chinese on the other hand, developed sophisticated programs to prevent famine and extreme poverty. As Confucius says, “In a well governed country, poverty is something to be ashamed of. But in a badly governed country, wealth is something to be ashamed of”.
Leap round the world, and “the basic lesson of Medieval poverty” according to historian Tim Hitchcock, “is that there are bureaucracies and systems being built on the sufferings of others all the time. And that is true now, as it has always been.”
As the world becomes a global economy, the rich North seems to push the once-wealthy South into poverty. “The industrial revolution has set the world on a course of huge reductions of extreme poverty,” argues Jeffrey Sachs, “that’s human progress.” But progress has also led to huge. “The elite doesn’t just give way”, observes Development Economist Frances Stewart.
When you wake from your dream, will you think things are better or worse than they were in the past?
- According to the World Bank, 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. That’s its definition of extreme poverty. But a further 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
- An estimated 30,000 children die each day due to poverty – that is 18 children a minute; one child every three seconds.
- Approximately 600 million children live in extreme poverty.
- Around 2.6 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation and about 885 million people do not have access to clean water.
- In the US, one of the richest nations in the world, 1.6 million children are homeless – that’s 1 in 45 children in America who experience homelessness each year.
Find out more about Ben Lewis and what motivated him to make this film. Watch a short Q and A session with him.