Irony in Fighting Poverty: Welcome to the consumerist age

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Consumerist age meets poverty

My friend Armen made an interesting reflection the other day during a conversation. Like much of what he says, I needed to give it a day or two to think it over.

Hear me out, but I think there might be something in this.

I was walking past Town Hall Station yesterday and within the space of 100 metres passed three different groups of charity groups looking for people to ‘sign up’ for their cause. Each one had something to do with children and poverty. Each one had a different coloured t-shirt. All of them had slick looking sales materials and a well-rehearsed delivery just waiting for their next customer. Walking down the street I was conscious of them sizing me up and wondering whether I should be their next conversation.

These were people selling a solution to a need you didn’t know you had yet. You could buy your very own monthly subscription to ‘doing good’.

Armen was suggesting that much of the material presented by these groups related to the immediate physical needs of those in poverty. Maybe that is fair enough, given the lack of everything in which they live. And it also makes the message easier to communicate. Poster children for poverty. We look at the photographs and immediately assume so much. Nothing is really said about a spiritual or psychological need. Do these needs matter when someone is dying from physical want?

Over dinner tonight I spoke about this with my friend Bernie. Had we become consumers of ‘doing good’? Were we more influenced by brand and messaging than by actual need?

Bernie has some good experience in this area with the arts so it was interesting to hear what she had to say. Ethical issues of what is important and how we as individuals and society decide this. She also raised the important point that money is necessary to run an organisation.

What do we lose by becoming more consumer orientated?


4 thoughts on “Irony in Fighting Poverty: Welcome to the consumerist age

    Armen Gakavian said:
    October 9, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Matt, thanks for this – a good bridge between the 2 issues of consumerism and the focus on material need to the exclusion of spiritual and emotional. It’s a huge irony indeed, this corporatisation and commodification of charity. … This is why holistic, Christian work is so important.

    World Wide News Flash said:
    October 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Irony in Fighting Poverty: Welcome to the consumerist age ……

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

      10citybridgerun said:
      October 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the feedback- I appreciate your interest!

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