12 December 2007

Keeping it local

From a Seattle Times article earlier this year, I'm reminded that, when it comes to poverty and class inequality, scale is simultaneously significant and irrelevant. In other words, knowledge of the world’s 1.2 billion people who live daily without safe drinking water somehow means everything and nothing when it comes to making sense of homelessness here in Seattle with its 68,000 millionaires. How can one really justify attending to the global poor before/without attending first to the unacceptable discrepancy between the Pioneer Square doorway "home" of the people in the image above (source: Seattle Weekly - click on image) with these:

From CNN Money (via the same Seattle Times article), we learn of Bill Gates' $136 million, eight-bedroom, 50,000 square foot home and Paul Allen's $48 million "secure compound" on Mercer Island - where people live who reap the benefits of Seattle without sharing its tax burden. And these are just the tip of our homegrown inequality iceberg. According to another CNN Money report, Seattle/King County currently ranks 10th in the nation's "Top 10 Millionaire Counties".

All of which also reminds me of something I wrote myself a little while ago and quoted again in a later essay about the nature of intercultural communication - as a scholarly field but also as a practice of everyday living:

The work of intercultural communication too often appears preoccupied with the glamorous boundaries of far-flung (tourist) destinations . . . The transformational promise of intercultural encounter is just as likely to be realised round the corner as it is around the world. (Thurlow, 2002a: 4)

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