This photo is of two young boys swimming in the horribly polluted waters of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India, by photographer Manan Vastsyayana. India now boasts having the world’s most million and billionaires. Its economic model is highly praised among the vultures of Wall Street and political vampires in Washington alike. Essentially, it is beloved for its “free market economy” neoliberalism and “friendliness” to corporations. Its new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has vowed to continue these policies, much to the satisfaction of the World Bank, IMF and Wall Street. All of this is occurring in a country that has one of the world’s largest gaps between the extremely wealthy and the extremely impoverished; and where the ecosystem is being systematically decimated by industry that has little to no regulation.
But this is not an Indian problem. This scene is repeated the world over, from Jakarta to Manilla to the Dominican Republic and even to the forgotten, abandoned and economic “sacrifice zones” in the US. It is a picture of institutionalized, systemic oppression and exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable by the world’s most powerful; and its scope is growing. It is neoliberalism and globalization at its most base.
So when we see photos like this of children swimming in a plastic soup in Manilla or scavenging for treasures in mountains of industrial and electronic waste in Ghana we should not avert our eyes. Instead it should serve as a reminder to us in the so-called “developed world” of the ramifications of our insatiable, destructive consumption, and the vulturous economic policies that allow for it. It should stand as a rebuke of cupidity and should alarm us that what we are doing to the planet and all of its inhabitants as a whole is a crime of epic proportions tantamount to genocide. And it should help us to see these children not as someone else’s responsibility, but as our very own flesh and blood.
Kenn Orphan 2014