Amy: To catch everyone up to speed, there’s currently a campaign called “Lived Below the Line” that calls for people to try to live below the poverty line, using only $1.50 a day for food because that would be the US dollar equivalent of extreme poverty.
I’ve seen people partake in this challenge and I think it’s stupid. I get that it can make people aware of just how little people the impoverished live with, but I don’t think this campaign is actually effective at influencing any change. People who will just do the challenge for two weeks, and then go back to living their normal lives.
Claire: It’s almost insulting to the people who do have to live on $1.50 a day, because that’s their life, it’s their reality. It’s not some game. What’s the point? What are you trying to prove? I don’t think it benefits anybody.
Bishoy (our new writer!): There’s no substitute like experience, right? Not a lot of people want to go through this experience. If I were to read someone’s experience on how they experienced simulated poverty for a month, I’d feel more humility. It would make me more humble, it would make me look at my own spending.
Claire: I think if you’re doing it and you’re someone like Ben Affleck, it brings awareness to the issue.
Amy: Even Ben Affleck doing it… the fact that extremely-rich-Ben Affleck is doing it really lessens the whole cause for me. He is a huge figure and he would bring awareness, but to me it’s a very temporary awareness. It’ll disappear as soon as people find someone else to focus on.
Claire: I don’t think it’s very well thought-out, people mimicking poverty just because Ben Affleck doing it. I saw this documentary where these guys went to Guatemala and they’re living on very little a day because people down there are extremely poor. The documentary was good because they were part of the community. They started farming their own radishes and they tried to immerse themselves in the culture. They taught the community English… obviously people can’t just take off and do that, but something like that is way more meaningful than living your privileged life here and doing a poverty “challenge” for a week.
Amy: And a lot of people doing the challenge figure that $1.50 a day means $10.50 a week, so they’ll buy $10.50 worth of groceries up front to try to last through the week. People living in actual poverty don’t have the luxury of doing that! To just spent $10.50 up front and see how they can last through the week with just that. Sometimes they live on $0.50 a day, sometimes more. These are the reasons why this money challenge ring so false to me.
Bishoy: But let’s look at it from this perspective: hasn’t the challenge been effective already? Hasn’t it raised awareness? I mean, we’re talking about it. Doesn’t it make you more aware of your spending?
Claire: But how does help those in poverty?!
Bishoy: What I can take out of this on a positive note is maybe reduce my spending and shed light on giving to charity.
Amy: This ties to a good piece of news, the news of a manufacturing plant in Bangladesh collapsing and killing more than 1,000 people. That plant made cheap clothes for ginormous retailers here. People were horrified that it happened, but they’re not going to stop buying cheap clothes. Those who are poor rely on the cheap apparel so that they can stay clothed, and there are those who just don’t want to give up shopping for cheap thrills at H&M, Zara, or the GAP.
Problems like these need to be solved from the top-down, not from picking at the problems after they’ve already trickled down to the masses and then trying to reverse them. It doesn’t work like that.