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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
03.07.2020
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I. THESIS: The fierce corruption will ultimately unify people in their fight against the system. Therefore, community living in slums can become a force for positive social change.

II. ARGUMENT #1: Misery and grief unite people. Once the discontent to the existing corruptive system reaches its boiling point, community will make a shift towards better quality of live, equality and political transparency.

a. Even a slight improvement in people’s life quality leads to a struggle for the next step up in;

b. Despite the growing opportunities the urban life provides, the access to funds remains restricted to highly corrupted hands of minority;

c. With the limited political participation, slum inhabitants have little power to influence political decisions.

III. ARGUMENT #2: Living among well-off population, observing their lifestyle and actions, and most importantly, being the basis for corruptive incomes, slum community will gradually come to the comprehensive understanding of their genuine role in society and the rights they deserve.

a. As people start moving more from rural areas to urban slums, they step closer to corruption and, simultaneously, the chance to fight with it;

b. “The big people think that because we are poor we don’t understand much” (51). In fact, these people understand plenty.

c. There is another part of the community that cannot tolerate corruptive schemes and will ultimately move to take decisive actions.

IV. ARGUMENT #3: The fact that the number of those slum representatives who have an access to education through corruption rises might create a better and more qualified support for the poor.

a. A part of resources corruption generates is directed on the processes that can improve the life of slums and transit society to a better level of existence;

b. With enough money to bribe the government, corruption can be utilized for the good purpose at first to be eliminated or overcome later.

V. CONCLUSION

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Charles Kenney, the author of the essay In Praise of Slums, presents the idea of the way slums influence the society. Evidence shows that more and more people prefer miserable urban existence to poor though bucolic rural life. In developing countries, hundreds of millions people have chosen horrors of slum life for the last few decades. Seeking for the opportunities for better life and more ways to get money for solving their first-hand needs, the poor inevitably face corruption. In her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo represents the modern Indian life in slums, devoting particular attention to the role that corruption plays there. The author states that Western countries as well as the elite caste of Indian society perceive the word “corruption” with “purely negative connotations;” the phenomenon that restrains the modern high aspirations of Indians (28). “But for the poor of a country where corruption thrived a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained” (28). Being generally recognized as a phenomenon that slows down or even ceases the development of society, legal corruption remains a widespread practice across the developing world. The fact implies that people have some short-term benefit from the dishonest system. However, the question now is whether police/legal corruption can unify the community in their struggle for justice, or it can only result in the deeper gap between its weaker representatives. The fierce corruption will ultimately unify people in their fight against the system. Therefore, community living in slums can become a force for the positive social change.

The first argument to support the thesis derives from the thought that misery and grief unite people. Once the discontent to the existing corruptive system reaches its boiling point, community will make a shift towards better quality of live, equality, and political transparency. The rule of growing needs has been deeply incorporated in the human nature. Therefore, in search for the better life, the majority of people leaves the countryside and is involved in the urbanized corruptive nets of the developing countries. In his essay, Kenney states that life in slums is of higher quality for the poor villagers because it provides better access to services. There is a scientific evidence that huts in the big cities are more than two times more inclined to have piped water and are almost 400% more likely to have a civilized toilet as compared to rural households. Moreover, even the poorest urban existence is characterized by better prenatal care and higher school enrollment than the non-poor life in rural areas. Thus, even a slight improvement of people’s life leads to a struggle for the next step up in its quality.

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The governments of developing countries tend to perform appropriate actions in order to help those who are less protected and expand their rights for the decent life. However, when taking the situation in India, for example, Boo argues, “Although public’s funds for education had increased with India’s new wealth, the funds mainly served to circulate money through the political elite” (132). It means that despite the growing opportunities the urban life provides, the access to funds remains restricted and highly corruptive being in hands of minority. The idea implies that with the limited political participation, slum inhabitants have little power to influence the political decisions and change the system of which they became a part. The author declares that “while independent India had been founded by high-born, well-educated men, by the twenty first century few types stood for elections, or voted in them, since the wealthy had extra democratic means of securing their social and economic interests” (217). Poor Indians in each part of their country perceived the vote with a special seriousness because it was a chance to demonstrate the contribution they can make. The idea implies that with the limited political participation, slum inhabitants have little power to influence the political decisions and change the system of which they became a part. Consequently, legal corruption might become an impetus for the community to unite and fight for changes jointly.

The second reason for the conviction is that living among well-off population, observing their lifestyle and actions, and most importantly, being the basis for corruptive incomes, slum community will gradually come to the comprehensive understanding of their genuine role in society and the rights they deserve. The Pulitzer Prize winner states in her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, “Wealthy citizens accused the slumdwellers of making the city filthy and unlivable, even as an oversupply of human capital kept wages of their maids and chauffeurs low. Slumdwellers complained about the obstacles the rich and powerful erected to prevent them from sharing in new profit. Everyone, everywhere complained about their neighbors” (41). Consequently, each society is aware of its contribution to another one. As people start moving more from rural areas to urban slums, they step closer to corruption and simultaneously, closer to the chance to fight with it.

Furthermore, it is appropriate to address one of the characters of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, namely Asha. That Indian lived in Annawadi slum in Mumbai and had an unusually high position for a woman in her community. Being lucky to obtain a teaching job in kindergarten and become a slumlord of the Corporator, Asha was endowed with a power to control a slum. Obviously, she used it in her mercenary purposes through legal corruption. However, she had a clear understanding of the way everything works in the corruptive world and once answered her children, “The big people think that because we are poor we don’t understand much” (51). In fact, they understand plenty. The situation with Mr. Kample has shown that neither old friendship nor compassion could stand over Asha’s wish to receive beneficial financial proposal.

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A part of slum population supports the activity of such canny mediators, as it provides them with at least some opportunity for help in the form of employment or advice. Nevertheless, another part of the community cannot tolerate corruptive schemes and will ultimately move to take decisive actions. In the book, Asha’s daughter, Manju, who cries “over her mother’s rejection of a dying neighbor,” represents this party (42). Although said “Corruption, it’s all corruption, – she told her children, fluttering her hands like two birds taking flight,” Asha did not manage to alter her child’s natural feeling of justice (20). Therefore, despite of the tiny satisfaction the poor get from legal corruption, they are able to experience unfair condition of their existence.

Third, the fact that the number of those slum representatives who have an access to education through corruption rises might create a better and more qualified support for the poor. The opportunity to have their requests properly and competently represented to the legal authorities or their actions rationally organized might enhance the community’s unity in their goal achievement. Although Asha’s daughter did not support her mother’s business and views, she could not deny that it was corruption that gave her an opportunity to “be a college graduate, not dependent on any man” (51). Therefore, the advantage of legal corruption is that a part of resources it generates is directed on the processes, which can improve the life of slums and transit society to a better level of existence. Boo states that “the politics for which Manju had contempt had bought her a college education, and might someday lift them all into the middle class” (53). If people who share Manju’s point of view unite, they can create a powerful tool to cope with corruption. In the society where people with enough money to bribe the government can change any law, corruption can be utilized for the good purpose at first, to be eliminated or overcome later. Hence, corruption may serve as helpful mean to reach the positive social change as a final goal, especially through education and power.

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In conclusion, I reaffirm my belief that legal corruption may serve as a unifying factor for the slum community in its fight against the system. In spite of poverty, its population is moving forward due to both negative and positive outcomes of corruption. The author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers has drown the readers’ attention to the Indian’s old problems such as the spread of diseases, poverty, illiteracy, prostitution, child labor, and other. Although nowadays these issues have been aggressively addressed, the other main problem, namely “corruption and exploitation of the weak by the less weak,” remains almost unimproved (51). However, the problems are interconnected and with the improvement of illiteracy and poverty levels, corruption might become easier to be striven. In addition, closeness to the urban life as well as growing dissatisfaction with the poverty and difficulties to reach a higher level of social ladder would inevitably lead to the changes in the consciousness of the poor. It will further create challenging conditions for the corruptive system. These events will inevitably take place because the unified actions of slum community supported by their educated natives will result in a force able to fight with corruption and bring positive changes to society.

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