Saturday, June 4, 2011

$2/day - On knowing what's out there

Brett asked me the other day if I wanted to go to a Phish concert this weekend. "They put on a really good show, I hear!" he said. In reply, I said that I couldn't, because I couldn't afford to (this week, at least) as I am living on two dollars a day. I realised that this was probably the first time I said no to something because I couldn't afford to go. As I mentioned previously, I have never felt the shortage of money. In our world today, what that means is that I haven't felt the shortage of the opportunity to experience something. It is clear to me that money provides opportunities. If you are wealthy, you can have a summer home in the British Virgin Islands. One of the primary reasons you are able to have that home is because of the doors opened to you, the access granted to you, because of the money you have. What that means is that money opens doors, and a lack of money tends to keep them shut.

I thought about this experience with Brett, knowing all well that the concert was actually going on, yet I couldn't go. I didn't feel bad about it, because I know I'll get the opportunity to go to a concert next week, when I'm not living on two dollars a day. But what if that opportunity to go to a concert never came back to me because I just didn't have the money to go to it? I started to wonder what it must be like then to know everything that is going on around you, yet being unable to access those experiences. I thought about what it must be like to be a homeless person sitting outside the Michigan Theatre, or Hill Auditorium, seeing people all dressed up going in, after eating at Silvio's or some other nice place. There are a couple of things you might be feeling at that point, I assume (I assume, because I don't really know.) - 1) you might have previously been able to afford to go to a concert and dinner, you know what doing that is like like, and you maybe miss doing so and/or feel bad about the fact that you can no longer afford to do so, or 2) you may never have been able to afford to do so, and so maybe you don't know what it is really like, but you know that it probably feels good to be able to afford to do so.

(Spoiler alert!) One of the most fascinating scenes of the movie Waste Land, which I wrote about previously, is the discussion that Vik, his wife, and his colleague are having when the time comes to decide whether or not someone that works as a picker at a landfill should be flown out to London for an auction, since the piece that is being auctioned (made by Vik) features the picker. Vik's wife is initially opposed to taking the picker to London. "How do you think it would feel to go to into this glamourous world for just a couple of days, and then end up going back to a landfill in Rio?" she asks. Vik then raises the valid point that if he was poor, and someone came to him with an offer to move out of poverty for a week, knowing all well that you'll end up back where you came from, that he would of course take up the offer. The picker does end up going to London, and sees the art piece featuring him fetch fifty thousand dollars at auction. In the same way, I suspect that some people that have been disenfranchised and have ended up living on very little money have actually had experiences they wish they could continue to have, yet are not empowered by money. (That is not to say that these people are not happy, because I don't really know. Maybe they are.)

This week has been a fascinating experience, and has given me much to think about.

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