Documentary: The Divide (2015). The Divide tells the story of seven individuals in the United States and United Kingdom striving for a better life in societies where the top 0.1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
The filmmakers do a nice job of weaving these stories with news archive from 1979 to the present day. Inspired by the critically acclaimed, best-selling book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Divide walks the viewer through how economic division inevitably leads to social division.
Of the seven characters profiled in the film, I found myself most drawn to Leah, a single mother working a minimum wage job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Stuck in a dead-end job and a crumbling community in Richmond, Virginia, her only comforts are cigarettes – when she gets in real stress mode – the occasional beer and ice cream, and enjoying a movie from the comfort of her couch.
The Impacts of Self-Segregation
The story of Jen in Sacramento was also quite interesting. Although she has ‘made it’ into a gated community, she feels more lost and alone as her relationships with her old friends have soured and her new neighbors look down their noses at her and her children. For some reason, which is not quite clear to her, she believes her family is viewed as interlopers.
We can always nitpick some of the activities (e.g. Leah and her smoking) the profiled individuals engage in. However, in watching the documentary, I never got the sense that anyone was looking for handouts, getting something for nothing. None of them seemed averse to working hard.
I assume the profiled individuals have made their fair share of mistakes. Who among us hasn’t? And no doubt there are things individuals can do to better their own situations. However, I believe we have to recognize there are also factors – economic systems, governments, and policies – beyond the individual’s control that perpetuate inequality.
Ultimately, it seems to me anyway, income and wealth inequality damages us all. If the gaps continue to grow, there is no way even the wealthiest among us can avoid being impacted.
The Divide is available on Netflix.