I’ve had some really interesting conversations this week about global and domestic poverty and had lots of challenges. Thank you.
Three challenges were made, more often than once, that I’d like to explore.
LBL gives privileged people a sense that they know what poverty is like when really this project doesn’t give any indication of what real poverty is like.
I agree that this doesn’t give any sense of what real poverty is like, of course it can’t. I just hope everyone doing it had that pointed out to them as often as I did. I mean that really positively – because I think that is one of the values of this project. It starts a discussion between people about poverty and that doesn’t really happen very often at all.
For the record, here are just some of the things I have in my life that demonstrate extreme privilege that did not change while I did Below the Line:
- A secure income
- My workplace is warm and weatherproof and has health and safety standards
- Sickness leave, if I need it
- Secure comfortable housing
- The space to have a garden ( this summers challenge)
- No worry about paying bills
- The extreme luxury of knowing I have enough money if an unexpected bill comes in
- Access to free drinkable water
- Access to sanitation with no risk to my physical safety or sense of privacy
- The ability to pay for transport to buy the cheapest possible food
- The ability to have a (warm)shower every morning
- The ability to go to work by public transport
- Access to the internet and mobile technology
- The ability to speak and be listened to.
- The ability to look people in the eye and have them look back and smile
- Warm clean clothes and shoes for different situations
- Continual offers of free food and a community that has resources and shares
- I can buy books, or borrow them from the library, and have light to read them by at night.
Please feel free to add things. I know there are so many more.
LBL and organisations do nothing to challenge the global power structures that create poverty.
I get this too. Charity is not going to change the world. A just world is only going to happen through a massive reworking of global power imbalances, economic policies, institutional arrangement and understanding.
While I would like to consider I’m a tiny part of those moves towards structural change through my work here. I know we’ve got a very very long way to go, and that work is not going to happen without an initial awareness of the problem and strong civil society. I think Below the Line contributes to that, as do VSA.
What about the poverty in NZ, shouldn’t we start at home?
Again, I think we need to do both and make the links between poverty here and abroad. I completely get that in some ways people have more empathy for people in extreme poverty overseas because we haven’t messed up the discourse with it being their own fault. However I think we do need to make the parallels and look to other countries that have extreme inequality to learn some lessons before we end up there.
I also think we need to acknowledge that New Zealand has had a role, albeit minor, in contributing to poverty in some of our Pacific countries and we have a duty to redress this.
I’ve raised over $800 for VSA for their work in the Pacific and feel really good about that. I’ve also donated the money I’ve saved on food and coffee to the Wellington Benefit Rights Service (though I probably would have done that anyway) as they really need some help right now. I have had many many conversations. So I’d like to thank LBL for the opportunity to engage in this.