Who would have thought that the march of globalisation would be marked by rubbish, writes Jean Hodge.
There’s the vast quantities of the world’s discarded plastics and other debris floating about in the once pristine waters of the North Pacific – in an area the size of Turkey, according to Greenpeace.
Then there are the sweatshops in third world countries producing cheap clothing for richer countries. My guess is a lot of it, after being used for a short time, ends up in charity shops or being recycled – and possibly sold back to third world countries.
And then there are the huge amounts of rubbish that we all create, and which are of value to someone, somewhere.
In Mumbai – and probably in other poor countries – there is a strict hierarchy involving the picking, sorting and selling on of rubbish. Unappealing as it may sound to us, people with those jobs are the lucky ones. As we learned in the introduction to National Theatre Live’s screening of David Hare’s play Behind the Beautiful Forevers, only six people in 3,000 have a permanent job in Mumbai, where the play is set.
And, to return to the theme of globalisation, when Wall Street crashes, those people working by collecting rubbish and living in slum areas cheek by jowl with luxury hotels, know that the price of the stuff they have to sell goes down by ten rupees. They understand that everything is connected.
Yet those same people, so vulnerable to global pressures as well as to pitiful local conditions, showed optimism, vitality and great ingenuity in supporting themselves and trying to improve their lot. The play, containing a lot of genuine dialogue captured by the author of the novel on which the piece is based, showed some of the worst obstacles to be corruption and selfishness at local level.
The British Asian cast – starring Meera Syal – transported us effortlessly to that slum area, and this writer certainly engaged with all the characters and felt appalled when disaster struck. I left South Holland Centre in Spalding slightly culture shocked by the visit to those vibrant, noisy, dirty streets of Mubai. On the way out, I put my rubbish in the recycling bag – wonder where it is now?