Today is day 17 of the Jam Unacceptable Campaign!
Have you ever had the unshakable feeling that someone is watching you? The truth of the matter is that someone IS watching, but some of us are observed more closely than others.
In Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, the telescreen acts as a key image of the totalitarian state of Oceania. Winston Smith has one in his living room that he tries to keep his back to. In Orwell’s mind, surveillance was necessary to keep the managerial class in line.
In today’s society, the surveillance camera is no less important as an image of social control. And no group is more heavily surveilled than people living in poverty.
In the academy, many professors make a living producing an endless stream of reports that detail the various afflictions that come along with experiencing poverty. The state, meanwhile, produces its statistics on poverty down to the minutiae of people’s medical histories, welfare record, and more.
An irony of this constant surveillance is that people who are experiencing poverty are often labelled as difficult to access. This year, for instance, the Vancouver Island Health Authority named the group of people who use drugs and are street-involved the ‘hard to reach’. Rather than question their own conduct, VIHA merely pathologizes people who turn their back and appear hard to reach.
The RHA would like to suggest that if anybody is ‘hard to reach’ in our society it is the administrators of the institutions who are stigmatizing, marginalizing and criminalizing poverty. It is these institutions whose conduct needs to be radically altered.
We need to turn the surveillance camera’s gaze around and put it squarely on the concentrations of power in our society. This is what this campaign is about.