Tag Archives: society

Carlos Reyes Manzo’s “Dwellings” exhibition opens eyes to unjust world

This post was contributed by Paul Donovan, and was originally published on his blog Between the Lines.


Guests at the opening evening of ‘Dwellings’

An excellent photographic exhibition from photojournalist Carlos Reyes Manzo focusing on “dwellings” has been unveiled at the Peltz Gallery in London.

Carlos has brought together many images from across the world, displaying the lives of struggle of so many people.

Some of the images show no more than shacks, others formerly substantial dwellings then destroyed. One of the latter images concerned a house destroyed by the Israeli Defence Force.

The exhibition is also a chronicle of Carlos’s journalistic journey, taking in the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979 to Ethiopia in the 1980s and Iraq and Afghanistan in the early part of this century. There are also contrasting images of England, including scenes from Brighton and London streets.

The exhibition shows struggle and hope – concern that things don’t seem to be getting any better across the world as the decades go by, yet the resilience of people to survive and, wherever and however, prosper.

Reyes Manzo greets guests at the opening event

Reyes Manzo greets guests at the opening event

Carlos told of his own journey, as someone who was expelled from Chile to Panama, after being held in  the Tres Alamos concentration camp in Santiago  by the murderous Pinochet regime. Carlos eventually arrived in Britain, where he lived in some of the worst sort of dwellings in Britain at the time, as he started his journalistic journey. “I realised what was happening in Britain then was happening all around the world,” said Carlos, who recalled graphic images of war in Afghanistan with people losing their legs and the struggle of Roma families against discrimination.

One image shows a dalit woman in India standing with dignity, despite having stood and been ignored for four hours.

Chilean ambassador Rolando Drago paid tribute to how Carlos’s work illustrated the suffering of humanity across the world, the lack of opportunity and need for human rights.

The exhibition has been organised by the politics department at Birkbeck College as part of its ongoing work on housing issues. The other collaborators in the work are the Birkbeck Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies.

The exhibition runs until 20 March at Peltz Gallery, Birbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square London, WC1H OPD


How much money do you need to be happy at work?

This post was contributed by Natalie Nezhati.

Footballers like Suarez may earn over £100,000 a week but studies show this might not be enough to make a person happy.

Footballer Ashley Cole was famously mortified at Arsenal’s offer of a £55,000 weekly salary. Demanding no less than £60,000, Cole’s angry response made for some horrified headlines. But as comically obnoxious and out of touch his reaction might seem, it makes perfect sense from an economic point of view.

Income is a relative value explained lecturer David Tross of Birkbeck’s Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies, at a public talk at Birkbeck’s Pop-Up University in Leytonstone Library last week. It is determined by those we spend most time with: our peers, colleagues, family. Associating with obscenely wealthy sportsmen and frequenting the most exclusive nightclubs means that Cole’s point of reference will differ from yours or mine. Just as Warren Buffett’s will differ from that of the unfortunate toilet attendant who found herself on the wrong side of Cheryl that night.

Research finds we’re happiest when earning an equivalent or superior income to others within our peer group. Better then to be a top earner in an unexceptionally paid job than a millionaire amongst billionaires. Though if you want to put a figure on happiness, many agree that £50,000 is about the sum to aim for. That’s annual salary before tax, in case you were wondering.

At this figure, you can feel secure that your basic meets will be met with a little leftover to cover the odd trip to somewhere sunny. Earning above this amount won’t make you very much happier as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. So if you’re already earning £50,000 you now have permission from science to unplug your Blackberry next weekend and take that extra half hour at lunch, secure in the knowledge that any future payrise will make little difference to your overall happiness quotient.

For those of us yet to reach the all-important 50k, there’s still (scientific) reason to be cheerful. According to the ‘hedonic treadmill’ theory, additional pay won’t affect happiness levels too much because after a short-lived kick from the extra cash, you’ll simply adjust to the new level of income and return to your baseline level of happiness. So unless you’re living in real poverty that much sought after payrise shouldn’t make too much difference.

The trouble is we’re all shockingly deluded about what will make us happy. Research finds we’re consistently poor at ‘affective forecasting’ or predicting our future emotional state. As a consequence, we’re likely to overestimate the positive effect that a payrise will have on our overall wellbeing.

Rather than chasing the cash, David Tross suggests taking a less superficial approach and choosing meaningful work that matches your values. Life’s too short to be spent as a frustrated florist working as a tax advisor. Focus instead on what you enjoy and use your wages to buy experiences rather than things because studies prove that this makes people happier.

The message for Suarez and co. is clear: fewer Ferraris and more visits home to mum. Failing this, consider a move to Denmark or Columbia where people are comparatively very happy indeed. If this doesn’t appeal, just relax and wait it out. Statistically, people aged between 65 and 74 are the happiest of us all.

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