We spent tonight at the Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego as attendees of their distinguished lecture series. Tonight’s lecture from the Honorable Louise Arbour, the former UnitedNations High Commissioner for Human Rights, helped me understand the connections between security, development and human rights. Her talk, titled “Crafting Human Security in an Insecure World,” was the opening to the Women PeaceMaker Conference at the IPJ.
In the spirit of this conference, I think it appropriate to recognize that according to the United Nations Population Fund, “More women than men live in poverty and the disparity has increased over the past decade, particularly in developing countries.” Additionally, “Improving women’s education helps reduce fertility and child malnutrition and improve maternal and child survival.”
I think it’s important to recognize this because many of us make assumptions about what it means to be “poor”. We make assumptions about who lives in poverty. And of course, assumptions as to why people live in poverty.
We started this project with little (if any) focused reason to put ourselves in such a challenging situation, and I have found many of my own assumptions changed by this experience. What makes this experiment even more rewarding is that I have been given the chance to dialogue with others about their own assumptions concerning food, poverty and a whole host of other issues.
I’ve noticed a stark contrast concerning who people see as “the poor”. I’ve made comment in a previous post about the lack of conversation concerning poverty in our own country. I’ve also posted some data about the number of people around the globe living on very little. While there are certainly themes woven through both scenarios, each individual situation and individual set of circumstances is different.
The most distressing part of these assumptions is that many of us make broad generalizations about issues based on a belief we have surrounding a particular scenario. For instance, “I know someone on welfare who sits around and collects checks,” turns into, “poor people don’t deserve to just be given handouts, they need to earn their keep.” While there may be some truth in that particular instance, the danger is that all of a sudden “someone on welfare” morphs into “all those poor people.”
I watched this happen at a meeting today concerning discounts for students who can’t afford prom tickets. Assumptions based on individual experiences were being translated into what could become school policy. The challenge lies in recognizing that our own experiences, no matter how powerful, cannot possibly account for the infinitely diverse number of experiences regarding an individual’s economic situation.
I would not think of asking anyone else to try and eat on a dollar a day in order to test their own preconceptions, but I challenge you to try this: Spend five minutes writing on each of these two topics…
1. Write down everything you know about “poor” people. (Five minutes)
2. How do you know this? (Five minutes)
Leave it to a teacher to give you an assignment. Please post your reflections to this exercise. I’d love to hear what came out of it for you.
Breakfast: Oatmeal – $0.05 (less than a cup cooked – Christopher only), 1 Slice of toast with peanut butter – $0.15 (Kerri only)
Lunch: 1 Bowl of Southwestern Soup – $0.18, 2 Tortillas – $0.08 (Both Christopher only), 1 Bean/Rice Burrito – $0.15 (Kerri only)
Dinner: 2 Bean & Rice Burritos – $0.29 ( Beans – $0.07, Rice -$0.14, Tortillas – $0.08)
Dessert: 1 cup Tang – $0.07 (Christopher only)
Christopher Total: $0.67
Kerri Total: $0.59
Donation Total: $717
(THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING TO DONATE!)
NOTE: If you think what we’re doing is interesting, inspiring, or just plain nutty, consider SPONSORING our efforts. Simply enter in an amount, click “update total” and follow the prompting. If you don’t have PayPal, it will let you use a credit card. At the end of the of the month all proceeds will go to the Community Resource Center (here in Encinitas, CA). We will post evidence of donations at the end.