the way pigeons come up.


the other day, jaspreet told me about this brazilian guy named augusto boal. augusto boal was this activist who worked with a group of actors, and they would go out into the community and talk with people about problems they were having. for example, this group would go talk with some poor farmers about a faulty irrigation system. they would role-play various scenarios with the farmers until the farmers could come up with plausible solutions.

when jaspreet told me about this, i immediately thought back to conversations i had with my parents when we were in the philippines. my parents were always talking about wanting to help the poor, and my dad would ask questions like, "why isn't anybody helping them?" after these conversations, we would go to sleep, and then the next day, we'd go out to eat, shop at another mall, and then go out to eat again. conversations about the poor only took place at night.

my dad always came across like he was blaming someone else for all the poverty. he'd ask questions like, "why aren't the rich doing anything?" and "how do you think that this can be fixed?" sometimes, he would make statements like, "i'll bet that we're probably the only people in this country talking about helping the poor." i felt that, in my dad's mind at least, talking about concepts such as social justice and equality was enough. sympathy was enough. my mom told me she dreamed she was dressed as an angel, and she was glowing, and all these naked filipino kids came running up to her, begging for money. she gave pesos to a few children, but then they overwhelmed her, "the way pigeons come up to me when i have food."

my parents seemed like they really wanted my input on all this. they might have been thinking, you went to that liberal arts school. you volunteered. what are the fucking answers, son? i told them my ideas. for one, nothing was ever going to change so long as we were afraid of the poor. i talked about this invisible barrier we had created, one where people with even just a little bit of money couldn't roll down their windows in traffic, for fear that the poor would just be able to stick their brown arms into the car and steal whatever they wished. at one point, i asked if it would be possible to walk through a slum. no, they said. totally out of the question.

i also said that if we weren't willing to donate, give handouts, or set up some sort of a charity, then what chance was there that anyone else was going to? the system is designed so that everyone thinks that he is poor. i've had friends, classmates, coworkers, teachers, and relatives all mention at some point how they are poor. some of them were/are actually broke and living off credit, but not everyone is poor. some are poorer than others, but there's no clear ranking system, so no one actually knows where he stands. thus, it becomes either, "i'm broke," or "i got this."

this brings up a whole other issue about definitions. what does it mean to be poor? what is social justice? i really hate it when the discussion devloves into semantics. sometimes, i feel like the school i work for would rather discuss the concept of social justice to death rather than put it into practice. who knows why? maybe they don't want to come across as too "liberal" or exclusive. maybe they don't want to look like socialists.

i'm interested in figuring out how i'm able to keep walking when i see a human body underneath a blanket on a cold february morning. or how i was able to turn my back on three filipino children, eating our scraps and drinking our leftover ice tea. "the poor you will have with you always," dr. smith would always say, quoting jesus. "you're just romanticizing the poor again," my friend told me, while watching slumdog millionaire. maybe i am, but i don't like to think i am. in truth, i think i'm just trying to figure out how many of us are able to live with ourselves.

my aunt has talked about wanting to set up a charity in the philippines. i told my cousin about this, as he is thinking about becoming a business major. already, he seemed jaded and sounded like he was ready to give up before we even got to seriously talking about it. ours is a generation of quitters, cynics, and complacent overanalyzers.

what is this reality we live in? our president signs a stimulus bill that's supposed to help fix the economy, but despite my college degree, i have no idea how it will actually work. a girl takes on thousands of dollars of school loans so that she can find a higher paying job that will pay off those school loans. a person with a ratty old blanket finds a nook somewhere in the city where he can sleep for the night. a ceo decides to outsource work so he can have just a little bit more. every three to five seconds, someone starves to death. young professionals go out for drinks and someone picks up the tab.

these days, the people on top are discussing hundreds of billions of dollars. do they have any idea how crazy they sound? maybe it sounds normal to most people, but to me, it sounds like we're back in the third grade and i'm betting lucas 900 billion dollars that i can spit farther than he can.

1 comment:

Humanity Blues said...

The communists are coming to take us over!