I'm not ok with debt, but I'm ok with what would technically be considered poverty in U.S. terms.
Financial poverty is ripe with possibilities if you have time, education, political power, infrastructure, and so on. I.e. you can be poor and resource rich at the same time. This is the kind of poverty I'm probably fine with. In fact, stressed as I am by choices, I actually enjoy a lack of financial choices. Far from being a virtue, this is actually something I'm working on, because it can get annoying for people who I would like to hang out with.
With that aside, I want to think more about poverty that is much more than financial-- this is usually poverty that's entrenched and spans an entire family or community or swathes of a country. This kind of poverty is an assault to dignity, to possibilities, and it's profoundly limiting. It changes characters.
In the simplicity movement, there's sometimes a sense that that poverty is somehow similar to voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is full of possibilities. It's an intentional limiting to gain amazing freedoms.
On the other hand, poverty is characterized by lack of freedom. Sometimes it seems like both groups have the same resources and live in a similar way. In the U.S. case, one of the most profound explanations as to why this is not the case is in the stories of Barbara Ehrenrheich in the brilliant Nickle and Dimed. If you can't get enough money together for first and last months' rent, you can't rent an apartment. You can't buy in bulk. You can't live in a cool tiny house. Even if the amount you're spending every month is the same, the lengths you need to go to to earn that money, and what you're able to buy, are very different.
The key thing is that poverty is not something you leap out of into voluntary simplicity. They're two very different things. That said, one dream I have is that people practicing some kind of voluntary simplicity (including our family) could live in poor neighborhoods and impact those neighborhoods by being available, being present, and being resourced. Even though it's a big leap out of different kinds of poverty-- spiritual (which is clearly not the exclusive domain of those who are financially poor), financial, emotional, educational; it's a potentially small financial leap from financial poverty to voluntary simplicity.
Post a Comment