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The Gross National Debt

Thursday, August 25, 2005
Entertainment With A Conscience

I realize that the title of this post is highly subjective. After all - who determines the "conscience" of a piece of music, art, or film? Well, this is MY blog - So I do. ;-)

The Girl in the Cafe is a wonderful, touching and somewhat melancholy love story with a conscience. A joint production of HBO films and the BBC, it features Bill Nighy as Lawrence, a key financial adviser to a senior minister in the British government. Nighy is an unlikely romantic leading-man but the quintessentially perfect numbers cruncher with a quiet (sometimes too quiet) conscience and big heart. The girl herself, Gina, is played by Kelly Macdonald. A lonely yet surprisingly open young woman with a dark past, Gina is the vocal conscience to Lawrence's more understated and compromising nature. What develops between them is a soft, subtle, awkward and totally believable love.

The conscience and heart of this movie is the setting for the majority of it. Although they meet in London, Lawrence invites Gina to go on a trip with him - to Iceland - to the G8 Summit. As a key advisor to the finance minister, his role in the G8 is key. As their trip progresses, she asks him what, specifically, he's working on. He explains the Millennium Development Goals to her, an initiative previously agreed to by the G8. The purpose of the goals is to cut in half extreme global poverty (the kind of poverty that kills people) by the year 2015. He explains to her that 30,000 children each day die from abject poverty. That's one every three seconds. What was, for me, one of the most memorable lines was this:
"Eight men in one room could, literally, save hundreds of millions of lives."
Eight men. The same eight men, those leaders, that Group of 8, that meets every year. The movie continues with some excellent but not taxing scenes of the meeting of the Finance Ministers and the slow slide of the Millennium Development Goals down the agenda. There is much posturing around a need for compromise on those goals. The only additional part I'll highlight comes from an exchange between Gina and the UK Finance Minister where Gina has expressed an opinion about not letting these goals get pushed down the agenda:
UK Finance Minister: "It's a very complex issue, Gina. Lawrence and I have often found in the course of our work that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing."

Gina: "I know. But then my dad, who maybe wasn't as educated as you two [referring to the finance ministers for the UK and Germany] used to say that a lot of knowledge can be dangerous, too. Stopped you seeing the heart of things."
Indeed. What could be more worthwhile or have a higher priority than keeping people, specifically children, from dying of hunger? Or from becoming so weak that they die from a mosquito bite? In this world where we drive our SUVs and live in relative excess, it seems a small thing. Is there some rationale or explanation that anyone can provide to tell me why each one of us shouldn't care about these issues? Is there any reason that each one of us can't give something to help alleviate these issues? A vote is something you can give. It doesn't have to be money. It has to be something meaningful - something that you take the time to learn about and then dedicate your heart and mind to - to talking about it - to tirelessly campaigning for it - to letting it get to you and reduce you to tears. Meaningful.

Even ordering and wearing the white wrist band lets people know that you want to eliminate world hunger and poverty. Visit The ONE Campaign's website. In association with Make Poverty History and other awareness and aid-giving groups, the ONE campaign is endeavoring to do no more than to compel the world's industrial leaders to stand by their promises. If we can't stand by our word, what, ultimately, do we have to offer of any value??

posted by RenaRF at 6:01 PM 4 comments links to this post


Blogger troutsky said...

As Adorno said, starvation is the one issue it's impossible to rationalize. And the 300,000 don't die each day because there is not enough food to go around (after all, tons and tons lie rotting in storage or are thrown out as "garbage" each day.) They starve because they don't have the money to pay for food, because they are poor. We eat, they die and a little charity, while temporarily making us feel better, does nothing to change the structural problem.Huge disparities in wealth are an intrinsic objective condition of capitalism,learn to live with it or work to dismantle it.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Martian Anthropologist said...

Got your comment on my site. Thanks for the kind words about that blog entry (Santa). Also, you're right, Ishmael is a great book. I run a very successful discussion list about it, if you are interested.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Jorell said...

hey dont worry about them crazy people coming to my site! have a good one. later

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