Eliminate poverty, don’t reduce it: Victor Hugo disses the MDGs

November 9, 2010

     By Duncan Green     

“I am one of those who think and say that it is possible to destroy extreme poverty. Mark you, gentlemen, I am not saying ‘reduce’, 240px-Victor_Hugo_circa_1880‘lessen’, ‘limit’, ‘control’, I said destroy. Poverty is a disease of society such as leprosy was a disease of the human body, and can be eliminated just as leprosy has disappeared. Yes, it is possible. Legislators and policymakers must think about it constantly, for as long as the possible is not done, our duty will never be fulfilled.
In Paris, in these suburbs of Paris where the wind of revolt once blew so easily, there are streets, houses, sewers, where families, whole families live pell-mell, men, women, girls, children, having no beds, blankets. For clothing they have stinking heaps of rags – the cities, where human beings huddle to escape the cold of winter.

Well, gentlemen, I say that these are things that should not be, I say that society must spend all its strength, all its care, its intelligence, all its will, so that such things are not! I say that such facts in a civilized country, engage the conscience of the whole society,

[For all your efforts] gentlemen, you have done nothing as long as the people suffer! As long as those in the prime of life and work are without bread, as long as those that are old and have worked are homeless! It is not only your generosity that I appeal to, it is your wisdom, I implore you to think. You have made laws against anarchy, now make laws against poverty!”
Victor Hugo, Speech to Legislative Assembly, 9 July 1849

[h/t Matt Davies, plus a combination of Google Translate and remnants of schoolboy French…..]

November 9, 2010
Duncan Green