'Your Brothers' Keepers' is a video that is available online. It is part of TVO's international poverty series, Why Poverty?
interviews three anti-poverty activists: Laura Cattari, Arthur Gallant,
and Vac Verikaitis.
First, however, we are advised to view the short (5
minutes) doc, How Can A Warm Man Understand A Cold Man?, about Vac's fall to poverty.
speaks of the loss of identity leading to depression; a loss in a
culture where the first question is, 'What do you do?' but you can no
longer do what you did. And it's a loss of community. She says you can recover, but it's not something that happens overnight.
speaks of having limited or no choice; for example, without sick
benefits he must go to work even when he's feeling really crappy. Oh
sure, he's healthy now, but if he were to get sick, chronically sick....
relates having to survive, to put food in your belly. But that takes
time away from dealing with other things, such as feelings of isolation
and depression and anxiety.
Cattari says there are new metrics to
determine poverty. In addition to one's income and the security of your
next meal, we now consider inclusion (dignity--such as your clothing;
opportunity--such as post-secondary education; and a future).
says the despair of having no future, of utter hopelessness and just
not seeing a way out, of 'losing hope is a death sentence', literally.
But there are survival tools, such as humour.
Paikan asks Gallant
his age. He is 22. Paikan says he automatically equates youth with hope;
however, is that the case? Gallant personally has not seen a way out of
poverty, has had no hope. But he does have a dream, has hopefully sixty
years left on this planet, hopefully can make a difference.
then asks Cattari how she got out of hopelessness. Cattari says she was
lucky. She had a really good therapist who referred her to a legal
clinic. She realized there is assistance out there but you have to be
persistent and you have to learn a whole new world of survival.
Paikan welcomes John Dalla Costa, founder of the Centre for Ethical Orientation, and Jordan Peterson, PhD in psychology, from the University of Toronto.
talks of the drain on time and energy and money it takes just to
survive. This leads to things falling apart, to hopelessness and
impulsivity, to addiction. In these situations, the way the brain
calculates the ratio of present to future rewards changes. Technically,
it's called 'future discounting'.
Paikan asks Dalla Costa about
the aggregate social effect of these individual decisions. but
first, Dalla Costa thanks Cattari, Gallant, and Verikaitis for their
Costa then explains that individual actions have a structure and so
does society. For the last forty years our society has been heavily
marketed, which demands consumerist behaviour and impoverishes the
planet. We have this 'amazing' economy that also 'produces staggering
levels of inequality and that inequality is where' personal poverty
encounters social poverty. We put off solutions to poverty to tomorrow,
as we do with climate change. In fact, we know that the impact of
pollution, of carbon change, affect the poor the hardest.'The costs
of climate change aren't not there [yes, double negative]; they are just
borne by the people who have the least flexibility.'
agrees: 'This poverty trap ... exists at the bottom socio-economic
hierarchy' where no matter the society, capitalist or communist, it's a
winner-take-all-and-loser-lose-everything distribution. He explains the
basic dynamics, but adds that it's not so simple. He also adds that,
regardless whether your perspective is right-wing or left-wing, it's not
about having money, but having hope. Rich or poor, you can still lack
Paikan relates stats of Canadian attitudes towards poverty from a Salvation Army report:
- '43%--A good work ethic is all you need to escape poverty'
- '41%--The poor would "take advantage" of any assistance given to them and "do nothing" '
- '28%--The poor have lower moral values'
- '23%--Poor people are in that position because they are lazy'
and Dalla Costa both said those attitudes are 'baloney'. Dalla Costa
said that 35 years of data reveal that more successful people are less
ethical. Why? Because of the daily exercise of what is called 'pro-self
behaviour'--it's about me, it's about winning, etc--but without social
concerns. So you have Popeye forearms and Olive Oyl legs.
Peterson adds that the report overly simplifies a complex problem, which Verikaitis later touches on.
Costa notes that systems have 40-50 year cycles. They calcify and have
to be broken. With congregations, it's a generational thing. That is why
there are Jubilee Years in the Bible. We started going that way at the
end of the 60s, but we made a conscious decision instead to resist, to
maximize shareholder profits.
Verikaitis says that poverty has
many guises; some are obvious, some are not. Artists can well-express
its many guises by holding up a mirror to society and saying, 'This is
what I see.'
Cattari says that one result is discrimination, when people often fail to see the person inside the guise of poverty.
powerful show and its well-spoken guests serve a generous and
informative portrait of poverty in urban Canada. For a glimpse of
poverty around the world, go to Why Poverty?