Amusement in Poverty?

14 May

So it seems that all us volunteers went to places where poverty was rife whether in India, South America, Asia or Africa. We all seem to have the same reactions and shared similar living conditions-whether bathing out of a basin, using drop toilets, walking as the main mode of transport etc. I’m sure our family and friends have seen our photos of these living conditions, then looked at us and were like “wow” with a suprised look on their face that said “I can’t believe you did that, it must have been awesome!”
But we know it definitely was an experience, but the reality was it was not awesome knowing the struggles these people go through to survive.

This got me thinking, why are Westerners so ‘amused’ by poverty?

I remember watching a movie in South Africa where a white tourist went to the slums of Jozi (Johannesburg). When she came in contact with one of the ‘well-off’ thugs he angrily asked “what brings you here?” She replied,  “It amuses us (Westerners) to see poverty, its somewhat romantic.”

In all honesty, I’m sure all of us captured photos of poverty, right? I sure did.
Why did you?

What for?

stick and stone housing


Do we share some of these traits of being amused by poverty? Or did we capture these photos to remind ourselves of how lucky we are?

Despite this, I’ve learnt that the less you have, the MORE you really have. More time for the important things in life: love (for family, friends, God), respect, true compassion, happiness and understanding, and a more clear and unclouded and undefiled mind.

heart-warming smiles

"O Friend! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love..."

The saddest part of all this is that it shamefully exists. Such difference in quality of life should be made extinct. The rich and the poor, the first-world and the third-world, us and them should be eradicated for mankind to progress and lift to the heights of equality and oneness.

But how can such a utopian society come into being?
A food for thought as I’m sure through our experiences we see such a need in the world.

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4 Responses to “Amusement in Poverty?”

  1. angelenepenguin May 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Powerful post. Personally, I am not amused by poverty at all. It’s a harsh reality for people and there is nothing romantic about it. I think it has been idealised for Westerners so that they can go over and help these seemingly perishing people and look better for having done something for the plight of humanity. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone but we can’t ignore the fact that it is the case for others.

    I took photos of the kids in our village to put faces to them when recounting stories. I love them so much and I never want to forget the details about them. Also, photos tell their story. These kids faces were smiley and content. The photos depict their happiness. Though they had less, significantly less by Western standards, they had much more than I have ever had.

    I hope that the disparity between rich and poor closes up one day. How? I don’t know. But I hold onto the hope that it’s possible.

  2. jyd89 May 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I agree with you completely that it is not amusing or romantic and am equally appalled at the mentality of people.

    I believe that rendering service to mankind whether it be locally or on the other side of the world, is one of the greatest services that can be undertaken, if done in the spirit of love and with the desire to help fellow men.

    I don’t think it ever possible, however, to remove the disparity between rich and poor (e.g. everyone to be rich and wealthy will not build a healthy society), though I hope and am a supporter of the removal of extremities of wealth and poverty.
    The humanitarian work that you and I were humbly engaged in, I think, is a small step to increasing the betterment and enrichment of BOTH the lives we encountered as well as our own.

  3. scronk May 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    This post reminded me of my very first view of a Filipino slum. I have a fascination with urban decay (especially in Sydney) and it’s one of the few things about cities that I can genuinely appreciate and find beauty in. So when I first glimpsed a Filipino slum (from a fair distance away) my immediate thought was that it was gorgeous. But then I had to remind myself that, no, I wasn’t in Sydney anymore and a slum was certainly not gorgeous. That’s why I refused to take any photos of the neighbourhood that I had my homestay in; I needed to enforce upon myself the truth, that slums were not curiousities. They were people’s homes, their lives.

  4. huongness May 22, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    We wouldn’t take photos of people living in poverty in Australia. Nor do we generally have a fascination or keen interest in the unfortunate. Rather, our interest is generally in addressing the inequality issues through participating in the non-government sector, or lobbying for law reform, or donating to the Red Shield Appeal. Rarely are we compelled to take photos or engage with poor people in Australia as we do in other countries. It truly is strange.

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