Good Folk of Vancouver (Raphael Borja)

Today is Blog Action Day! Bloggers all over the world, including myself, are focusing their efforts on the important topic of poverty, to change the conversation for one day.

Living in Vancouver, BC I see a great deal of poverty in my day to day life. Living next to one of the many bridges in the city, I often have to tip toe under the bridge on my way to work, careful not to wake the varied homeless individuals who have been able to find a dry place to sleep for the night. I’ve habitualized the emotionless head shake in response to the many panhandlers that pepper the downtown streets just like everyone else. Though, my heart does ache every time I see the look of desperation and hopelessness in the eyes of an old man on the streets who’s options have clearly dwindled down to very few.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently calculated the living wage in Vancouver to be $16.74 an hour. This living wage is the hourly wage a two income family of four needs to make ends meet. There is consideration for savings or debt repayment in their calculation of this figure. It takes nearly $17 per hour to cover the basics in this city, yet the minimum wage in BC remains at $8 an hour, where it has been since 2001. Reading these figures it’s really not surprising that there are so many people living on the streets.

Lets, at least for one moment, turn our attention from the well dressed sad and happy Wall Streeters who are fretting over billions of dollars, and consider the millions of people who are fretting over hundreds of dollars. Here are 3 great tracks that tackle the issue of poverty each in very different ways.

Fast CarTracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman (1988)

A heart wrenching telling of one woman’s struggle to make ends meet while working a dead end job and dealing with inescapable problems. Chapman won a Grammy in 1988 for this now classic track that highlights the generational nature of poverty. Impoverished children are born to impoverished parents; a very difficult cycle to break, except in the imagination, where one can drive away in a fast car to escape the weight of poverty.

Mr WendleArrested Development

3 Years 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of– (1992)

This uplifting take on poverty sheds light on the individuals behind the faces of the homeless on the streets. Speech, the leader of Arrested Development, tells about getting to know a particular homeless man who offers him wisdom and makes him think differently about ‘civilized society’. Arrested Development’s unique style of hip hop is both fun and playful, despite the fact that they are constantly tackling serious issues. Where are Arrested Development now? Still working their butts off making music and touring the world! Find out more and send them some love over at mySpace!

I had to include the video for Mr. Wendal, because it’s so colourful, shown above.

All Tomorrow’s PartiesThe Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

One of The Velvet Underground’s greatest songs that showcases Nico’s unique vocals. All Tomorrow’s Parties asks the question of:

What costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow’s parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow’s parties

Highlighting the pressure to keep up with ones peers, wanting to have the great outfit to show off on Saturday nights, while not having the means to purchase such extravagances. The never attainable goal of keeping up with the Jones’ underlines this song. The blind greed that entices people to constantly want more perpetuates and increases the gap between the rich and the poor, creating more want for the rich, and more need for the poor.