Friday, 14 December 2007

Inequality, three

Worries: can I really make this neat dividing line between unacceptable, absolute poverty that allows the people in it to be humiliated and acceptable, relative poverty? Brazil is a middle income country, after all. Our needs are socially defined. Perhaps it’s na├»ve to think that only some level of absolute poverty “forces” people to sell their dignity. If so, then the move from inequality to indecency to absolute poverty fails. Relative poverty would indeed matter. (Or I could just give up the strong feeling I have that buying people’s humiliation is evil; or I could punt this into the arena of social capital and civic culture, by saying that the problem was the video participants’ lack of self-respect.)

Worries on the other side: can I really neatly divide porn up into what’s acceptable although not my personal cup of tea – maybe even quite gross – and what’s bad and exploitative? I am uncomfortably reminded of that Chris Morris line from Brass Eye: “the amount of heroin I use is harmless.... But what about other people less stable, less educated, less middle-class than me? Builders or blacks for example.”