is all. The bigger your context, the more clearly you can see detail. If
there is one thing I have discovered from watching movies is that you need
to look through the world with a wide-angled lens followed by a long lens,
and only then does the close-up shot make any sense. We need the panorama
shot to put the close-up into perspective.
me see if I can make any sense. So I take up the film camera on my
shoulder, you carry lights and tripod, extra batteries, and tapes - not
because I can lay claim to being a bona fide camerawoman but because I am
writing this piece so in this case I call the shots.
thing you know, I’ll get illusions of grandeur strutting around like a
bitch in high heels snapping orders to a crew of 100 like a female version
of Stephen Speilberg. Just kidding. Trying to establish a rapport with
you. Dream big or not at all. In reality, all we’re doing is making a
short experimental two-part imaginary documentary (based on fact) about
context lasting no more than about 10 minutes in all.
Various close-up shots of newly-trained butler after the fashion of
Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day serving coffee to highbrow
couple in uptown New York. (Pay attention to the way the light glints on
the silver, the perfect tilt of manicured hands reaching out to hold the
Notes from a report in the Washington Post: “Though famously averse to
bowing and scraping, Americans, it seems, have developed a craze for
employing butlers. With the nation’s economy booming, there is no
shortage of eager clients; and, with salaries of US$100,000 on offer, no
shortage of would-be butlers.”
of ragged children playing in the Bronx, jumping on a bed covered with a
ragged duvet; in the middle of a wasteland, an enormous garbage-playing
dump. Notes from journalist Matin Kettle who does a Washington diary for
the UK Guardian:
many non-Americans, the scale of poverty in the country is unthinkable.
The booms of the 1980s and late 1990s, however, have not reduced
inequality, but increased it. From the end of World War II until the
mid-1970s, most Americans experienced rapidly rising real incomes. But,
after 1973, average wages stabilised or declined. Inequality increased
rapidly, because the richest got richer in real and in relative terms.
the pace of rising equality has slowed in the past three years, the top
five per cent of Americans have increased their income since 1975 by an
amount larger than the entire income of the bottom 20 per cent. Poverty is
not just a class issue, but one of race.
rates are much higher among blacks and Hispanics than they are for
non-Hispanic whites. The rate among blacks is 26.1 per cent or 9.1 million
people while the rate among Hispanics is 25.6 per cent, or 8.1 million
hand me that wide lens, please.
Shots of Kevin Watkins, a policy adviser at OXFAM as he sits hunched over
a report, with a half-drunk cup of coffee in front of him. It is, he
informs us, as we circle him, shooting from this angle and that, a
forerunner to the launch of the “millennium round” of trade talks
under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.
that tripod straight please, this is not the time to go to the bathroom
just because it sounds technical. Remember, we are trying to find a
context for the butler and the children of the Bronx. In the end, context
affects each one of us - you holding that baby, and you thinking of what
lime to go on this evening, and you concerned about that contract. So,
hold that bladder.)
from extracts of his report which Watkins is to hand in for publication:
world’s 48 poorest countries account for only 0.4 per cent of world
trade, and their share is shrinking. For developing countries as a whole
(camerawoman’s notes: that includes us in T&T) export earnings could
rise by $700 billion a year if rich countries opened their markets. This
is about 10 times what the developing world receives in aid. Unlike aid,
trade generates the self-reliant growth, employment and investment needed
to reduce agriculture. (Now we get to the important part).
rich countries may preach the free trade gospel, they remain staunch
protectionists. They cut their tariffs by less than poor countries during
the Uruguay round of trade negotiations in 1993.
facing developing countries are about a third higher than those facing
industrialised countries. Ever more elaborate ways have been found to
exclude Third World imports. The United States has been particularly
adroit in slapping anti-dumping duties on imports deemed ‘too
There is a connection between the butler serving coffee uptown and the
children in the Bronx making a garbage dump their playground. A connection
between them and Third World Trade Ministers watching helplessly as
richer, more powerful countries beat them down with trade negotiations.
world is not randomly ordered. The rich have, in short, taken charge with
little regard to their moral responsibility. Be they individuals or
leaders, they continue to ruthlessly exploit the poor, couching their
action with words of free trade, liberalisation, equal opportunity under
notes: But let’s remember context. At the end of the day the wide, long
vast state of the world - like the weather - affects the smallest of us
everywhere. We need several more shots to prove this point. Let’s move
closer to home.)
up shots of several people greedily swallowing the front- page news report
which gives us the interesting, relevant and shocking news that a
government minister drove or had driven (the reports vary) his car into a
We have gone so close to personalities and maco reporting that we forget
our major role as journalists is that of watchdog. If we don’t start
questioning them about their real role, which is about improving the
conditions of the people of the country over which they preside, and focus
instead on the superficial sensationalism, parties, races and
personalities, how on earth can we as journalists do our bit for
development? News for news sake is as dumb as playing a mindless video
game: entertainment which does not educate or empower our people.
shots of a small army of men, women and children who live in the garbage
disposal dump in the Beetham emerging from a day’s scavenging. The women
find their way to a regular spot to prostitute themselves for money, which
is needed to buy things not available in the dump; the children (some of
whom are HIV-positive like their mothers and fathers) to beg. The men, to
terrorise and hold up and steal.
We shun these people, not realising the line between poverty and disease
and health and a decent standard of living is a thin line. Just one person
from a middle income household needs to contract AIDS, lose their job,
pass on the virus to the spouse and there you have it - crossing to
poverty. What they do not need is a Christmas hamper. I find them
patronising, distasteful and more self-promoting than anything else. They
don’t need band-aid. They need rehabilitation skills. A safety net,
which allows them to eventually help themselves.
inside the new social sciences building at UWI, St Augustine, where a
bright young economist using a laptop and slides gives a highly technical
and competent lecture on a hypothesis on interest rates and monetary
Take cutaway shots of the question and answer session. There is much
academic sparring and scoring of points - the thrill of challenge is here.
But there was one question no one could answer. How was any of this going
to be one day relevant to the dirty malnourished boy in the Beetham when
there is no way any of her hypothesis (which in order to be relevant needs
to be tested) will ever be tested since there is practically no
relationship between the policy makers who implement and the academics who
hypothesise in an air-conditioned room?
Now, we have the panorama. Despite the way words such as democracy is
bandied about, even in the land of the brave and free, the majority of the
world’s population is as exploited as it was when it was run by
plantation owners, monarchists and dictators. Except that while they made
no bones about openly exploiting, it’s now dangerously couched with
words such as opportunity, choice and free trade by the people who are in
a position to made a difference. It is criminal for academics,
businessmen, politicians and media houses to serve their own advancement
while getting a payroll on the basis that they are doing something in the
wasteland about them. Unconscionable and criminal.
of script. Roll credits.