From May 6th - 10th, join thousands of Australians taking the challenge to eat on just $2 a day for 5 days - the equivalent of the extreme poverty line. Sign up at livebelowtheline.com.au.
I’m doing Live Below the Line this week, and I just don’t know what exactly the point of the whole thing is.
For those who don’t know, Live Below the Line is a fundraising campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the difficulties of living in extreme poverty. Participants challenge themselves by living “below the [poverty] line”, in order to really understand the realities of being poor. In Australia—where I live—what this means is that participants must feed themselves on $2 a day for five days (what was calculated as being equal to being “below the line”). Money raised goes towards funding the education of school kids in Cambodia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea.
It’s a nice idea, right? I mean, it’s a cute idea. And it IS a challenge, particularly for those who have never gone had to go hungry before (who are probably the only ones who would do this, not gonna lie). There’s only so much rice and lentils you wanna eat! I know for damn sure that I want a bottle of coke, and a huge bag of chips, and fucking buttloads of indian food. And I must say that I care deeply about where the money is going—it makes me feel good that maybe some kids living in poverty will be able to go to school, partly because of the money I helped raise.
But the whole living below the line thing of “starving” yourself (though not really, of course) so you can finally understand how awful it is to be poor? It’s kind of bullshit. It seems like the height of privilege to decide that starving yourself (though not really!) will actually help anyone else. As if you a) weren’t aware that poverty and hunger existed; b) think having to eat some boring, not quite fulfilling meals for a couple of days will give you some insight into the reality of being poor, or c) that you even REQUIRE this hidden insight in order to empathise with the fact that poverty fucking sucks, and being hungry fucking sucks, and hey, maybe this is the reality of a lot of people around the world, who’d a thunk it? I am absolutely too cynical about this, but honeslty I feel a bit ashamed to be part of this group of do-gooders—the damn naivety of thinking that doing some symbolic social experiment of going a TEENY bit hungry is meaningful in any way.
Yet I signed up.
I always have this huge desire to “get involved”. Or maybe it’s more of a desire to WANT to get involved, because once I do actually get involved in whatever it is, I find myself feeling distinctly uneasy. I agree about the importance of fundraising for needy causes. I believe aid can be necessary (though equally it can also be extremely problematic and has been misused to disastrous effect).
What I admire about people who’ve done LBTL in the past is their surety of how important their actions are. They’re not bad people; matter of fact, they are assuredly Good People who Mean Well. They are doing something Good; they are raising money to send poor kids to school. What can be wrong with that? But the method of fundraising—the living below the line—it ultimately means nothing, but we all pretend it does mean something.It’s patronising. How nice it is to have the luxury of pretending to be poor. I can eat my cheapass oats in front of my fucking Macbook Pro, in my large house, in my affluent suburb, in one of the richest countries in the world. Yes, definitely listen to me about how it feels to be poor.
This is the second-last day of living below the line for most Australian participants, including me. At the end of tomorrow, we’ll all be happily patting ourselves on the back, I guess, and commending ourselves on how brave, how altruistic we all are. Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe we should be proud? I can’t escape how uncomfortable I feel—yet over a million dollars has been collectively raised so far. That’s no mean feat. That money will help people. There are worse things than that. But I don’t think I could do this again.
If you would like to donate, know that the money goes to a good cause, even if the trip getting there is kind of weird.