aside Brittle Sun – Using music and poetry to discuss the stigma of poverty and its deadly effects.

Brittle Sun
Brittle Sun

Viki Mealings from Melbourne, Australia is lead singer of the band Brittle Sun  and existing ASLI artists who we featured in our first ever campaign “Celebration of Women” where we tackled many important issues related to women and their rights to equality.


Now we speak to Viki once again, however this time we are discussing “Capitalism, Poverty and War” which is an important issue to Viki and the band, who have decided to focus on poverty and children in their latest song and video. Brittle Sun have an important voice which discusses the realities of life rather than the fabricated commercialised sound which dominates the charts. A band to be added to your playlist for sure.

‘The Ballad of Moll Magee’ is a poem by William Butler Yeats from his 1889 book ‘The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems’. It’s a poem about a woman left homeless and destitute following the death of her child. It looks at the stigma of poverty and its deadly effects. It resonated with us because more than 100 years later it remains relevant. Poverty is as insidious as it ever was.

We have also done a music video, in collaboration with our friends Duncan Rocha, Michael Austin and Lawrence Gabriel who wanted to visually recreate the poem. Here is our video:

What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject for this campaign “Capitalism, poverty and war”?

Like a lot of people I’ve noticed that in Western countries there is a growing economic inequality in the 21st century in comparison with the post-war 20th century. It used to be that most full-time workers could afford basic housing. That’s no longer the case. And in real terms the minimum wage has fallen, while the wealthiest are earning more than ever. Meanwhile, some Third World nations have been robbed of millions of dollars worth of revenue due to Western corporate tax avoidance. And in Australia (known as the ‘lucky country’), thousands of children are homeless due to prohibitively high housing costs that are a direct result of policies that strongly favour investors. The overall trend in the UK, USA and Australia has been been tax cuts for the wealthy and reductions in tax concessions for the poor. These tax policies have hit working-class families, single parent families, women and children especially hard.

What are your present and future projects with your music?

We’ve just released a new EP entitled ‘Stormbirds’. We’ll do some more recordings when finances allow. I think our future work is likely to get more political. It’s unavoidable.

In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Why (not)?

I actually don’t think that capitalism per se is totally bad. At its best it has the ability to lift people out of poverty. At its worst it’s socially divisive and creates enormous wealth inequality. No system is perfect and capitalist systems must be regulated. Otherwise you get self-interest and the pursuit of increasing profit margins overriding all other interests.

What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?

If you have a capitalist system that allows for a living wage, then it can provide jobs and a comfortable lifestyle for everyday people. Unfortunately this is often not the case. The majority end up as the working poor with little chance of social mobility so that a tiny minority can enjoy excessive wealth.

If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete? For example, people with physical or mental disabilities?

I think it’s a myth that capitalism rewards ability. It rewards privilege. I can’t speak for people with mental or physical disabilities but I challenge anyone to try getting around in a wheelchair for a month. We still don’t have enough accessible public spaces, workplaces, accessible toilets, or public transport. It’s absolutely ridiculous. People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty because of a discriminatory and non-inclusive system. And people with less visible disabilities such as chronic illnesses are even more discriminated against. They’re maligned for not pulling their weight economically regardless of their physical or mental limitations.

In your opinion – who benefits from poverty, and how?

In the long run nobody benefits from poverty. The wealthy might think that driving wages down in the services and manufacturing industries means more money for those in positions of power and for shareholders. But when you create extreme income inequality, you eventually get dissent. The wealthy end up having to live in gated communities with barbed wire, guns and security guards. Having poor people produce our goods in third world countries so that we can save $2 when we buy a t-shirt is also a false economy. All it does is exploit overseas workers while at the same time robbing us of local jobs. The factory fires in Bangladesh that killed so many workers illustrate the extreme exploitation of and the utter disregard for the working poor. Just so that corporations can increase profit margins. They say they go offshore because our own manufacturing industries (which have been all but annihilated) are not competitive. I personally don’t buy that

To what extent does stigma contribute to the experience of living in poverty in your country, and in your opinion what could be done to address this?

I think the stigma of poverty is enormous. It’s demoralising, depressing, and isolating. For example, poor kids are more likely to be bullied at school for not having the ‘right’ clothing and electronic devices. And if you come from a poor neighbourhood, you face discrimination at job interviews. As soon as they see your postcode on your application, they don’t want you.

If you’re unemployed or struggling financially, being asked at social gatherings what you do for a living or sitting there listening to people talking about their latest holiday abroad can be tough. Then there are those who can’t go on social outings because they don’t have the money to buy a meal or a beer or even a coffee. And most people who don’t have enough food don’t tell anyone because they’re so ashamed.

In wealthy countries like Australia poverty is seen as a personal failing and the fault of the individual not the system. The poor are judged much more harshly than the rich, both by the legal system and by society at large.

What in your opinion works in reducing the negative impact of growing up in poverty on a child’s life chances?

Equal access to low cost high quality early learning and education is essential. It’s not happening though. It’s not a level playing field. State schools in poor neighbourhoods tend to be underfunded and under-resourced according to need in comparison with state schools in wealthy neighbourhoods. In Australia private schools tend to get more than their fair share of public funding.

Do you think war is ever necessary and why?

Sometimes. For example, Hitler had to be stopped somehow. But war is usually not necessary. And pre-emptive strikes are never justified in my view.

Who profits and gains in general from war, in your opinion?

Arms corporations such as Lockheed Martin and their shareholders benefit hugely! There are many large multinational companies such as Boeing that make a lot of money from war-related contracts. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. And now some of them are using forced prison labour to save money on wages. Those prisons are privately run, for profit, and are full of people that come from impoverished and minority backgrounds. I see the prisons as the workhouses of the 21st century.

To find out more about Brittle Sun and their inspiring music follow these links:

Official website for Brittle Sun

Brittle Sun Facebook Page

SoundCloud – Brittle Sun


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