What is poverty anyway? And I don’t just mean that your car looks crappy or you shop at the Dollar Store. I mean real poverty, like living in Somalia type hardship. Since you’re already reading this in English on a computer with a fast internet connection, let’s face it: your life probably ain’t that bad.
There’s a lot to be thankful for in this world and I do try to remember that whenever I feel down about whatever silly, petty, entitled nonsense I choose to pollute my mind with. I try not to do it too much, but I’ll be honest when I say that I’ve never been guilty (at least for a minute) of the following Thought Crimes: Comparing myself to others, feeling bad when I see neighbors or friends who have more than me, feeling jealous of friends in apparently hot relationships when I’m all alone, envy of what I see people I don’t really know anymore on social media and what they’re doing (cars, vacations, buying houses, fancy careers etc). At times, I’ve even felt embarrassed that I hadn’t achieved as much, at least materially, as my old college dorm buddies. That I somehow should be on par with them at this stage in my life, even though I would never want to do the same jobs as them day-in-day-out. These thoughts come and go, sometimes I feel somewhat jealous, and then the thoughts fade. I try to remind myself that I’ve chosen a different path for my life that has been full of adventure, risk, challenge and hopefully without too many regrets. Though of course there’s still ample time to fuck up on that front.
There will, of course, always be people who have more than you- unless you’re Bill Gates. And yes, there’s always going to be a hierarchy in society; it’s never been eliminated yet. Even the Soviets tried to, but just ended up creating a new unequal, multi-tiered pyramid scheme to replace the old one the Tzars had in place. But just try to remember what you do have in your life that is incredibly good, and if some of these things were taken away, would you still take them for granted?
A Roof Over Your Head
A Good Bill of Health
Food in Your Belly
Clothes On Your Back
I can only imagine arriving for the first day of a long prison sentence: how many of these above items would be torn away from you? Probably the only constant in your life would be a roof over your head, clothes and bad food. Maybe you’d make some buddies over time (or be reunited with your crew from the old neighborhood- who am I to judge?) But that’s about it. You can bet your perspective on a great many things would be thrown into a serious tailspin at that point.
If you’re living in a Developed Country, life is pretty good my friend. Yes, there is poverty here in the US and Europe too- I’m not trying to downplay the struggles that many people face in their life in the industrialized world either. But there’s literally billions who have it WAY WORSE and would do anything to take your miserable, whiny, entitled place in a beige stucco house in the suburbs somewhere. Let’s break some facts down for you:
- Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
- 10.6 million children died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as the child population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy).
- 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity.
- Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished.
So, do you still feel poor? I’m not trying to make you feel guilty over things you have zero control over. But please keep things in perspective. Is it important to go shopping at the mall every weekend? Do you really need to fill you home with all sorts of useless things you won’t use very much? Does your friend’s new home they purchased still invite feelings of resentment? Is your life really that bad? When I choose to be more materially simple and unambitious in my life, I try to remember why. And how in the grand scheme of things I’m really very, very wealthy.