Places where rich and poor meet

The talk at Craft South on Monday was the scene of a very interesting conversation as many contributed their experiences in working with artisans in other countries.

The purpose was to open up dialogue about the changing relationship between first world countries like Australia and the ‘developing world’ in the light of climate change. It is in this context that the activity of ‘world craft’ seems particularly relevant.

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The following kinds of rich-poor relationships were discussed:

1. Natural

Wealth is the natural reward of the stronger and more talented. The poor can improved their position if they work hard enough or put up a better fight. With wealth comes great advances in knowledge and art. Consider Medici, Darwin and Nietzsche.

2. Feudalist

It is the responsibility of the rich to care for the poor. Their wealth contributes to the prosperity of society as a whole. Those who are unable to care for themselves need special attention. Consider missionaries, celebrities in Africa and Make Poverty History.

4. Spiritual

With wealth comes spiritual decay. The abundance of goods leads to a moral torpor and alienation from the world. The poor have the rigours of necessity to sharpen their senses and the camaraderie of people brought together in adversity. Consider primitivism, the Slow Movement and world music.

5. Revenge

The rich countries have outsourced the bulk of their labour to the hard-working masses in the third world. Their increasingly passive consumer lifestyle and growing debts have made them weak and vulnerable to future challenges. They will be eventually outpaced by the confident and energetic developing world. Consider the new superpowers of China and India, Hegel’s master-slave dialectic and the Sermon on the Mount.

6. Partnership?

The Titanic has been hit by an iceberg. All classes, from the poor immigrants in steerage to the aristocracy in the cocktail bar face a similar grim horizon. Unlike Titanic, climate change prompts a cooperative response, but one where first and third worlds much recognise each others needs and aspirations. Is there a mutually beneficial and empowering relationship between rich and poor? Consider craft-design collaborations?

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