Support the Spirit Level film!

Katharine Round calls for backers to help make a documentary based on the popular book about equality

March 12, 2012
4 min read

Most of us can see in our daily lives that our world is beset with social problems: we’re stressed, mistrustful, our communities have been eroded, crime is a constant problem, and the lives of growing numbers are dominated by despair and depression.

Some commentators have bemoaned our moral decline, blaming the laziness and criminality of those at the harsher end of the social scale. The perception is that all it would take to solve these problems is for the poor to pull themselves together – that anyone can be rich as long as they work hard. But is this really true?

The Spirit Level, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, makes an arresting case to the contrary. It presents 25 years of meticulous research to show how nearly all social ills – stress, poor educational performance, poor child wellbeing, violence, unwanted teenage pregnancies – are more common in those societies with a big gap between rich and poor. What’s more, there are good reasons to believe these inequalities are at the root of our problems. At its simplest, bigger income differences reduce social cohesion and make all the problems of class and social hierarchy worse – not just for the poor, but for all of us.

The idea swept the globe in 2010 and 2011, gaining support from leaders of all political persuasions. Miliband talks about ‘Spirit Level Britain’, Obama claims inequality is the number one problem facing the US, and Cameron states that ‘deep poverty living side by side with great riches damages us all’. Even the world’s billionaires at the annual Davos Conference spoke of the problems of inequality – although perhaps this is more down to a fear of reprisals than a preoccupation with fairness. After all, last year saw a wave of protests against the super-rich, from Occupy Wall Street to UK Uncut.

Yet still the incomes of the top earners have risen faster than everyone else. In the US the richest fifth of the population controls about 85 per cent of the country’s wealth. In December 2011 the OECD reported the gap between rich and poor was at its highest level for 30 years. The ignorance about how unequal our societies have become – and the effects of this – is shocking.

I’ve long been passionate about the role that film can play in creating social change, and the book immediately struck me as one of the most important social messages facing the developed world. I felt it was something that transcended political rhetoric – that everybody should be aware of this research into the woes of our modern developed societies.

Over the last few years, films like The Age of Stupid and An Inconvenient Truth tackled climate change, influencing both public opinion and policy. More recently, The End of the Line lifted the lid on the threat from over-fishing, and successfully changed both government and business policy. The same team are now behind The Spirit Level – and our aim is no less ambitious. We want to make a film that is talked and written about, that gets into cinemas and on our televisions, so millions can see it. And, most importantly, we want to achieve real, tangible change in policies and attitudes.

This month, we are launching our campaign both to raise awareness and funds for the film. We want as many people as possible to know we are making this film – to show just how much public support there is for the issue, to help us attract the money we need and to put pressure on politicians to move beyond lip-service to real policy change.

Financially, we are asking supporters to pre-buy the download of the film. If just 7,500 people worldwide paid £20, we will achieve our target. But it really isn’t all about money. This is a movement and a campaign and, regardless of how much cash you have, we want you to participate and spread the word about our message.

Here’s how you can help:

Sign up to our newsletter at www.thespiritleveldocumentary.com to find out more about the campaign as it progresses

TELL your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, students about this campaign.

SHARE through Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Spirit-Level-Documentary/315019558529617.

SHARE through Twitter @SpiritLevelDoc.

And please do email any thoughts you have for the film or campaign to us at hello@thespiritleveldocumentary.com. Together we can make this happen.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue


7