Saturday, May 28, 2011

$2/day - Expectations

I have realised that empathy is a difficult emotion, particularly when it comes to expressing it verbally to other people. While working with Professor Larsen on our class in Detroit, it was extremely important that we heard what the people of Delray felt about their situation, and the recommendations that they had for what Delray should look like. But even though we were from thirty miles away, we were outsiders. Of course, I do know we were sincerely trying to empower the residents of Delray. Yet it is easy to talk down to these people, to tell them that we know what is good for them, to tell them that they are not doing enough to ameliorate their situation. We may not feel as if we are being condescending or intentional in that way, but just like sexual harassment, many times it is not what you intend that is important, it is what they feel that matters.

From tomorrow, I shall try to live on two dollars per day, for a week. I am doing so out of my own volition, on the invitation of my friends Lisa and Ingrid, who maintain a blog called Half Of The World, which I wrote about previously. Now I know that I won't even come close to living on fourteen dollars for the week, because one day's rent is more than that. Yet, I will do what I can, with food, electricity, energy and such. I will write about the logistics over the next few days, and I am sure Lisa and Ingrid would love if you wanted to try doing it for a week and write about it.

I expect it will be easy for me to live on two dollars a day. I have a solid home to come sleep in, and have a nice work environment to go to. I will not be straining myself manually, and even if I have to in the laboratory, which is sometimes the case, I know all well that I am being paid, that I am not living in the fear of crop failing, that I will be able to come back to living on more than fourteen dollars per week. Some of you may feel that it is arrogant for me, or for us, to undertake a project like so, because we have the support and the knowledge that we can just decide not to live the project. We are therefore still outsiders, and we do not know what it is like to actually live in poverty. Outsiders yes, arrogant I hope not. Yet I do expect to learn a lot through the experience, and I am positive that this will add more layers of thoughts that I have not thought yet, and draw evermore parallels between the problems that face the environment and the humanity that inhabits it. As is my intention, Lisa and Ingrid hope for us to be more mindful of our choices, to see how our choices impact the environment, and consequently human relationships. I hope to be more empathetic to the struggles of living in poverty, and see things from the side of those we depend on to live the way we do.


  1. Are you using food already bought that is in your fridge and cabinets in this? I do not mean to sound like I am questioning your commitment. The purpose of my question is to see where you stand on already bought food because I am considering joining you in this. Also, what about tap water? I don't really see any way around using tap water.

  2. Hey Mateo!

    Great to hear from you. I think I am just going to give away the food that I already have and just start from scratch. I don't intend on using the refrigerator for this week. Or, if it will last, I will just keep it in the fridge. I haven't done the calculations yet, but I am sure that the energy costs of the fridge are a significant fraction of fourteen dollars. Regarding tap water, I agree. There really is no way around it...

    Keep me posted on your thoughts.