Friday, March 26, 2010

choosing poverty

on my recent visit to the farm, one thing really struck me. one of the folks who were still around from the good old days had said for the 1st ten years, everyone had to sign a vow of poverty. a commitment to remain impoverished. i feel this needs to be put into context- most if not all of those living at the farm at that time were white middle class youth who were resisting their culture. whether we like it or not, consumerism and suburbia are part of most of our cultures. i've always sort of put culture on a pedestal- something to value, to preserve, and to cherish. but what happens when your culture- my culture- isn't something i can feel positive about?

not unlike many of those who once lived on the farm- i'm preparing to reject my culture. to resist it. as i leave my cushy life in small town america- where my biggest concern is not my next meal but replacing my computer- i see a lot of parallels between myself and the farm folks. i'm basing my soon to be life on idealism. i'm choosing to reject the next step my culture has told me i should take. i am not applying for grad school to spite encouragement form professors, family, and friends and a gpa to allow it. i'm not looking for a 'job' that will pay my bills, that will pay my student debt. i'm not thinking about a lifetime partner, and i'm not dreaming of a wedding followed by children and a house. this doesn't make me better than those who do want those things, who are taking the steps often followed by (soon to be) college graduates.

in a way, i've committed myself to poverty. no, i didn't sign a vow to say i will remain impoverished, but the choices i'm making are ensuring that for my near future. this is my resistance. i'm resisting what i see as a consumer based culture, that values things and money above people and life. is it futile? we'll see.

but perhaps what is interesting and what i need to further evaluate is the privilege i have to reject my culture and choose poverty. to be clear, i'm not saying choosing poverty is 'bad' or that i feel i'm making a mistake. but what i do realize is it takes a high level of privilege to choose to live in poverty. i'm not sure exactly how to explain this. but those who are impoverished are unlikely to chose to remain so. it takes someone coming from a culture of money and wealth to deny it, to resist what would arguable make my life easier (though, i am far from certain it would make it better). i have always had healthcare, meals, and a roof to sleep under when i want it. i'm not exactly removing those things from my future (other than healthcare i suppose- but even then i'll get the healthcare i need from the government), and even if somehow i found myself in a situation where food and shelter were no longer guaranteed,i still have an out. i have a network that would provide for me in a time of need. a family who would feed and shelter me no matter what. in that sense, my privilege runs even deeper, is undeniable, and (luckily) is unshakable.

i'm choosing poverty. i can't yet say i know what kind of toll that will take on me, and i cannot deny that even under circumstance of poverty i will remain very privileged.

i'm not really sure where i'm going with this, but i sort of just wanted to hash it out in my own head i guess.

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