There is nothing a poor, hungry girl rummaging through the mounds of trash at the outskirts of New Delhi to find items she can sell to feed her family and herself appreciate more than a wealthy person, preferably an actor in an epic publicity stunt, stooping down to her level (not really) for a handful of days to supposedly raise awareness to the fact that she is poor, lives on under $ 1.50 a
day week and does not have much of a chance at a life worth living, ever, because she will probably soon succumb to abuse, beating, rape, disease and overall poor health as a direct result of her utter poverty that supposedly no one was aware of.
Case in point, Ben Affleck, who – together with a bunch of other privileged celebs such as Josh Groban, Debi Mazar and Sofia Bush – has taken it upon himself to live on a $1.50 food budget a day for five whole days to raise awareness for global poverty as part of the Live Below the Poverty Line Initiative.
“We are excited to announce that Ben Affleck will be joining us in the Live Below The Line USA challenge next week. He will be supporting Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). Join Ben, Sophia Bush, Josh Groban, and thousands of others around the world as we raise attention and funds for some of the best charities out there in the fight against extreme poverty.”
Raise awareness? Are Ben Affleck and other privileged celebs so out of touch with reality that they think that the fact that 80% of the world population living in utter poverty needs awareness?
Since when is poverty such a novel and unheard of thing that we need celebrities to shed a light on it? As if this was some sort of emerging social phenomena most have not heard of or seen so we need some rich pukes to tell us and educate us all about it because otherwise we wouldn’t have known?
And five whole days? He must be such an inspiration for a homeless person who’s been on the streets for years eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in sewer tunnels suffering from all sorts of ailments – physical and mental – without any hope in sight, to see a multimillionaire who nets $70 million slum it for five working days (I like how it’s a Monday to Friday thing. Ben needs his weekends to himself, after all).
While I understand
and appreciate the idea of trying to bring attention to such a grave problem, this is just patronizing and feels like a smug 1 percenter trying to teach poor peons a lesson because clearly those who live it every day are not aware at all of society’s ills and what it feels like to be struggling with only $10 in your checking for the next week until you get paid.
It’s like saying ‘Let’s pretend you have AIDS for a week so you know how it feels like.’ But that isn’t the same. It doesn’t count when you know it is not real and there is an end in sight.
The point of being poor is precisely that there is no way out, that you have very little, if not no choices at all, thus completely at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Poverty becomes systemic, it is a trap, more often than not, and a spiral down hopelessness and destitution; a vicious cycle with serious lack of opportunities every damn day – not just for a week or two weeks or six months. Every day.
It’s lack of choice and option from which you cannot opt out if you don’t like it. In fact, when you are poor, you don’t have much of a choice regarding to many things in life.
Ben Affleck can choose to opt out of this shit. Poor people cannot. Heck even middle class folks who live on more than a buck and fifty a day cannot just get out of financial destitution and living paycheck by paycheck. They are stuck. These rich assholes aren’t.
So Benny boy et al will be “slumming” it for a few days, probably already think this is a good way to lose the last few pounds for the next million dollar role and then they go back to their lives in the fast lane as they drive by a homeless person in their limo to the next award show.
These token gestures don’t do anyone, especially poor people who are hungry, any good but make the likes of Affleck and co feel better about themselves and for good karma which they undoubtedly read about in some health book written by their $500/hour personal trainer or nutritionist.
It seems to me like the one entity that needs his consciousness raised is Ben Affleck.
If he really means it, I challenge him to live the life of an ordinary American. I don’t even need him to live the life of said poor Indian girl collecting from trash mounds, just normal Americans. Move to a middle class house (which a lot of people these days cannot afford anyway) and try living on a middle class wage where you cannot spend $ 5000 on an Armani suit or $800 for your wife’s Manolos or $20 million on a mansion and instead have to sit down and make a budget trying to decide between saving up for your kid’s college or getting him braces. Between going on a one week vacation to Paris with your wife who’s been wanting to go for the past 25 years or send your kids off to college.
There is no need for you to pull a pseudo-Mother Teresa. Just try to live like a normal, hard-working wage earner.
And if you really do want to make a difference, do something like promise 30% of every cheque you earn for the rest of your life, Ben. Or just donate a million dollars to a village in Africa or India and get all your Hollywood friends to match you because none of this, “do a cleanse for 5 days to teach others a lesson about poverty” business is doing anyone, but yourself, any good.
Men and women of bigger statute and character than yours have been trying to raise awareness for the plight of the poor and failed – and their intentions were sincere and their sacrifices real, not publicity stunts; not token gestures where you give up Starbucks and steaks for five whole days while sitting pretty on $70 million. This is a pathetic, patronizing and deeply insulting attempt at helping the poor and laughable at best.
Celebs giving up their privileged lives (if they even do that) for 5 days does nothing to raise any kind of awareness other than the awareness that these people are overrated, over-privileged, over-paid schmoes.
To be clear, I have no issue with folks being rich and enjoying their fortunes but I don’t like it when they try to “teach me a lesson” unless they’re giving away literally millions of dollars every year to philanthropies that actually get folks the food, education, housing, health care and job training they need and thus become the change they want to see.
There is nothing worse than some rich puke condescending to the level of the “common” man pretending to give a shit when in reality he probably read somewhere that it’s a cool thing to pretend to give a shit, supposedly adding character and dimension to his profile as a thespian.
“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” – Jack London
Facts on World Poverty
1. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
2. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.
3. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.
4. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
5. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
6. If current trends continue, the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
7. Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.
8. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
9. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
10. Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide.