The Poverty of Privilege
Often we associate poverty with material lack, but material privilege also creates a poverty of its own. Often those who live extremely comfortable lives neglect the hazards that come with trying to steward their household economies. I think many people try to live with the allure of material abundance, which creates problems all of its own.
A sudden increase of financial means invites significant lifestyle changes. Thomas Friedman discusses some of these concepts as “living like an American.” When you read news stories detailing the social changes at work in places like Qatar, you begin to think that his argument has merit. I have read additional coverage of the phenomena occurring in China and India as they adopt increasingly Americanized eating patterns.
But really it seems that the poverty of privilege stems from losing touch. We surround ourselves with so much “comfort” that we conflate our wants and our needs. We grow dependent on systems that perpetuate any array of bad living habits. We forget about people outside of our walls. When encountering immense privilege, we may find ourselves separated from a traditional human life.
I am certainly not immune to the poverty of privilege. I am continually amazed at how out of touch I am. I do not have experiential knowledge of knowing where my food comes from, I have limited contact with rural environments, I can avoid going to certain places of town, I do not know the pains of real hunger, and on and on. I construct any number of paradigms to understand the world around me, almost entirely in my head. But it is much more comfortable to stay out of touch because that means I move within the dominant social expectations.
The choice to move towards full engagement with the world around me invites me seemingly of actively resisting almost everything I have been taught.