About Poverty Porn

Poverty porn, also known as development porn or famine porn, has been defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause”.

Wikipedia

Some say poverty porn is a good thing, if it raises donations, others feel it exploits. After a recent disagreement about the matter in relation to the internet, I thought about it for quite a while.

Let me take you back to 1990. I was 15 years old, and the www didn`t exist yet.

One day, I came home to school and found a video tape on the table, with a hand written note from my dad: “Watch this today.” The tape itself bore a label with another handwriting, saying “children`s home in Romania”.

I made lunch, waited till my sister was ready, too, and then I plaid the tape. The film was about 45 minutes long and showed the squalor in two particular orphanages. Children were starving, unable to change their clothes regularly, disabled and incontinent with not enough staff to wash them every day – and one of the homes even had its own little graveyard. I could think about little else over the next few days.

My dad told us they were going to do a collection from the church committee and deliver goods personally in summer. I was excited and fiercely eager to do all I could possibly do to help. In fact, I was devastated when I heard that I couldn`t come with them. 

Over the next few weeks, we ensured that everybody we knew had watched the video. Public screenings were arranged in the Church Hall, and I also took it to school. My granny`s house (which was empty at the time and directly opposite ours) was used to collect the donations, and it was my job to greet people and take them over the road. Mountains of food, clothes, blankets and toys grew by the week and were even joined by a fully functional dentists` chair towards the end of the campaign. We then boxed everything, and people took time off their work to fill the massive truck that appeared in our yard one day. I was there all the time. I felt relevant and part of something. 

There was a wedding on the day they left, and there was a really nice goodbye with us all standing in the garden and waving at the truck as it was passing by. They went to those very orphanages and came back with pictures of those very children seeing their very first chocolate bars, the same nurses unpacking blankets and the local dentist shaking the driver`s hand. The boy who had been lying in his own faeces had gone. 

About as much time was spent afterwards showing the pictures and telling the story as they did circulating the videos. Everybody was really affected. There probably wasn`t a single person in the community who hadn`t given. We had made a real difference, and that feeling stayed with us all for a long, long time.

Today, I see pictures online, or a link to a video, and I don`t want to read the text. I saw the same thing an hour ago on facebook or last night on telly. Their wide circulation reassures me that everybody knows, and hopefully, some will feel strongly enough to actually do something about it. I asked one person outright whether she gives to all the causes she is promoting online. Her reply was no, I barely have enough for myself, so spreading the word is my contribution. I can imagine there are thousands like her, and thousands like me who stopped paying attention. Whereever I see the pictures there`re always competing with proud new grannies, funny party pictures, cute kitten videos and tributes to deceased celebs. We don`t want to see that. I quickly move on, others may equally quickly press “share” to silence their conscience, and then we quickly move on and keep doing what we were doing when those stories intruded.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “About Poverty Porn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s