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October 15, 2008

It’s difficult to believe there are people so optimistic in this current financial context that Blog Action Day can seriously propose a fight against poverty.

One enlightened blogger who is blogging enthousiatically “against poverty” has this post entitled “Poverty Sucks”.

“Last year when I was at a convention in Atlanta, I got a free shirt that reads, “Poverty Sucks.” The irony was that while I was in the city, I learned how much poverty really does suck as I walked a mile from my hotel to the convention center each day. Each time I was approached by a vagabond asking for my help, and I turned him or her away. I didn’t want to get mugged, right?”

Receiving a t-shirt then seeing poor people isn’t ironic. It’s coincidence. But this good-hearted blogger isn’t the only one who doesn’t really know what irony is nor how to use it correctly in an English sentence and in it’s most altruistic form poverty really would suck, I suppose. It’s a question of degrees.

Despite the differences between 1929 and now (in 1929 if you didn’t have a job you lived in the street, and 1929 found itself in the middle of two world wars, etc.) one thing is the same – the stock market has taken a pounding and billions have been lost. In Europe 360 billion euros are proposed as a buffer against the possibility of financial organizations going down the toilet. We are assured it’s not really money, it’s a guarantee. In fact we will make money on this pretend money according to the financial boffins.

Whatever, 360 billion euros is abstract.

Now I’m really not an expert in global economics, but armed with my trusty World Economic Atlas 2008 I thought I’d look at Kenya. Why? Well, why not. Kenya is in Africa which has been hammered into the collective corpus callosum as being poor ever since I was born. Helping fight poverty invariably comes around to talking about Africa at some point and if one really wanted to see something ironic we could drop a plane load of “Poverty Sucks” t-shirts over the entire continent and watch the kids try to eat them.

According to the IMF, Kenya “is going well” and the “gross national product should continue to increase”. This means there are countries in Africa who are deeper in the crap than Kenya. But economic growth is around 5% and although only 10% of Kenyans possess a bank account the banking sector is considered as “one of the most performing in the region”.

Okay, so for about 35 million people Kenya exported 3.436 billion dollars worth of stuff. They imported 7.311 billion bucks worth of stuff. They exported 2.100 billion dollars of services and imported 1.450, so this give them a balance of payments in the end of -776 million dollars. Or 776 million in the red.

776 million is peanuts next to 360 billion. Proportionally imagine I need $77.60 and you have $36 000 in your pocket. Just hand it over buddy. Countries with cash could immediately pull 35 million Kenyans out of the quagmire they are in and apparently could do it with an amazing speed (Europe organized meetings between all of the heads of state faster than I could eek a yay or nay out of a PTA meeting to have a chicken raffle or bingo night to raise funds to buy computers for the first graders).

But the world is more complicated than this. If the banks fall and the stock market falls then the big lending organizations fall then insurance is finished, governments tumble, industry and agriculture are reduced to the middle ages as exports and accords evaporate, countries are plunged into war and everything becomes dark as the Terminators start to take over the world with freaky laser guns. Humans quickly ressemble headless chickens when you take away two or three little comforts (remember how pissed you were when your internet server broke down or your freezer didn’t defrost). We have come a long way since living in huts with no dental hygiene and apart from a well supervised camping trip from time to time, who wants to go back to living like some scene from Le Retour de Martin Guerre?

Sure, I guess poverty does suck but what the hell, the IMF say Kenya is going okay and jeez, have you seen Terminator? It’s scary too pal.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 4:01 pm

    Wow, you’re kind of a downer, aren’t you? You can’t really think of a better introduction to your thoughts on the global economy than knocking around my blog entry?

  2. Tim permalink*
    October 16, 2008 5:20 am

    I did call you “good-hearted”. 🙂

  3. October 22, 2008 4:48 am

    That’s like Murtha “apologizing” to the people of PA for calling us racist by then calling us “rednecks”. I hope he stops apologizing.

    Anyway, I looked up “irony” in the dictionary, just to make sure, and I did use it correctly…so there, Mr. Smarty Pants! 🙂

    Incidentally, I believe that you and I would be marvelous friends.

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