Tag Archives: Poverty

Just Look

I wrote this poem back in Grade 11 for a slam poetry assignment. I remember writing it over the course of a few days, which is relatively fast for my standards. I wrote it long before I decided to study at the University of Cape Town, and before I seriously started looking into Western views on Africa. But I knew already that something was wrong. I knew that detaching our First World lives from poverty and struggle wouldn’t solve the problem, it would just ease our guilt enough to get through the day. And I knew that wasn’t okay.

So, even though this is a kind of simplified version of some of my views, I still think it has something going for it. Enjoy.


Hello, my name is John
I used to live where the sun shone
But if you look now, Just Look
My life, my wife, my hope, they’re all gone
Thanks to a battle of wills of the powerful not-so-strong
That had nothing to do with my wife or my life
But it took everything
A rich man’s happiness comes at too high a price

I’m a human being, nothing more, nothing less
But now that that’s all gone –
Where’s my dignity

What makes you think, when push comes to shove
That you have the right to stand above
And watch while societies crash and burn
You think your status is one you earned?
We’re all human beings, nothing more, nothing less
And while we’re on the subject, please let me address
That the wealth and good cheer that you supposedly gained
Was given to you to not waste in vain

Just Look at the millions of people on their knees
Just Look
Whatever you do, don’t absorb this disease
Of apathetic ignorance that’s spread through the top
You sit and do nothing while economies flop
You say you’re against famine, poverty, war
But you don’t sacrifice anything to give to the poor
You say that every human has the right to life
To be fed, to be loved, to be protected from strife
Yes, you believe all these things, I don’t doubt it
The question is:
What are you going to do about it?

Just Look
The next time you see me on the corner of your giant TV screen
You see the pictures, the stories, and say
“Gosh, that’s obscene!”
But who cares?
Click, it’s gone
Hello, my name is John,
And my whole freakin’ world is gone

I’m a human being crushed under a bigger man’s show
So go ahead, big man, tell me I’m worth less than you

I’m a human being, nothing more, nothing less
I deserve dignity, I deserve respect from you
So don’t Just Look
Get up and do


One (Misrepresented) Direction in Ghana!

Oh. My. Gosh. Just when we thought the boys of One Direction couldn’t get any more perfect – BAM! – they post a bunch of pictures of themselves with happy African children.


Swoon, right?

I don’t know how you feel about this British pop phenomenon. [If you don’t know who they are, for goodness sake, get on the bandwagon! They’re like a less talented, better-looking version of the Beatles with a random Irish guy!]
I happen to love them. Kind of. In the same way I love bad Disney Christmas movies and instant mashed potatoes – though irresistible, there’s also something a little wrong about them.

Anyways, back to the point, and the focus of this blog.

Niall, Harry, Liam, Zayn, and Louis went to Africa. They’re supporting Red Nose Day, which fundraises for the British charity Comic Relief, founded in 1985. Cool. They’ve actually already released a single that you can buy to help the cause:

This totally sounds like I’m just plugging the cause. But wait for it, I’m about to get cynical.

Doing a remake of a Blondie song for charity, clapping with some kids, tearing up when talking about vaccinations… Sounds a lot like every celebrity trip to Africa ever. Maybe not specifically Blondie, but still. The whole thing was choreographed, from meeting boys who survive by digging through trash to wearing their nastiest T-shirts to blend in with the scenery. And it only lasted for TWO DAYS. How much of a continent can you see in two days?

A couple of the 20-ish year old guys got some slack for posting ‘insensitive’ Tweets during their days in Africa. You know, talking about how “real” poverty is, and how they’ve seen tragedy right in front of their eyes, etc., etc. Some Ghanaian celebrities lashed out at them on Twitter, saying that the band gave an unfair impression of their country and didn’t portray the positive parts of Ghana. Fair enough.

It is an issue that the British audience (of mostly pre-teen girls) probably don’t know anything about Africa or poverty or that the beaches in Ghana are some of the most spectacular ones in the world. It’s a shame, really. But should we really be surprised? And, should we expect the members of One Direction to educate the general Western public about these kinds of things?

It was all of their first times on African soil. And they had never actually seen mass poverty before. Which seems crazy to someone who’s lived in a developing country, but is completely standard to the average first worlder. Poverty is real. It’s shocking. It’s horrifying. Anyone with a heart would get emotional in an overcrowded, underresourced children’s hospital. Just Harry Styles was caught on camera and used as a fundraising tool – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahSIW5hOonk

Looking into the technicalities of how Comic Relief uses their funds is a whole other issue for another day. But I’m going to have to side with the Direcitoners on this one. If the guys’ responses were a little ignorant, hey, now they’re a little less ignorant than most of their demographic. If they were simply pawns in a greater scheme to make money to help abolish poverty, I think they’ll survive. And if they seemed a little one-sided in their representations of Ghana, apparently not all that stuck with them was negative. As Harry tweeted on January 13th:
“Today was the most amazing day I’ve had so far.. In my life ever”

Celebrities shouldn’t be the only source of information to Western youth. But they are a big one. So I say Amen! to even the tiniest bit of perspective thrown into Hollywood’s stew. We’ll take what we can get.