Covering poverty

The Google News page today featured links to an item on the hidden poverty in America. “Mom hangs herself, 3 kids; 8-month-old is found alive” said the item from the Indianapolis Star. The Washington Post had an item on the incident which seemed to confirm the plight of America’s poor, especially among minorities.  

 This is the kind of story that Tom French of the St. Petersburg Times talks about being “invisible” to us in everyday life. French wrote a series with co-authors on the life of teens and their concerns. Everyone knows that teens are an active lot, but Tom was able to capture the teen consciousness with disarming candour.

Hidden stories abound in America’s failed healthcare system that has left about 50 million without health insurance and many more underinsured (in 2005, the Health and Human Services Department put the figure at 45.8 million) and in its housing crisis that has witnessed the collapse of home mortgages.

The violent death of a poor family in a trailer home or on skid row is, to me, an intense moment to consider the state of the globalised world in the 21st century. When a particular hedonistic-consumerist philosophy and the single-minded pursuit of profit drives individuals in many societies, is equity an unattainable goal, even relatively speaking?

Governments are not ready to tax the new wealth of the rich. You have the Indian Prime Minister appealing to the corporate world to practice austerity and accept lower salaries, instead of taxing conspicuous consumption and living up to the Constitutional provisions he has sworn by.

Strangely, even to journalists the problems of the world seem to be so mild as to be largely invisible.

Few Indian newspapers are ready to go beyond the anecdote and investigate whether the Establishment is really responding to farmers committing suicide due to mounting debts, to a lone activist on a hunger strike against Army atrocities, to the insidious and systematic whittling down of civil liberties, to bigotry and religious hatred, corruption in government and the judiciary, and fundamentally, to the poverty of millions without housing, healthcare and adequate nutrition.


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