Friday, February 10, 2012

Poverty and Change

A while ago when the fight against SOPA was in full effect, I made some comment similar to the following "I wish we would put some of the energy and unity seen with SOPA into helping fix those things that affect peoples real rights everyday."  I tried to blog on it at the time but most things I typed were just angry, but today while out shopping it hit me.  My issue isn't the idea that SOPA wasn't worth the fight or even that the energy could have been better directed, the core of my issue was the argument that this was a justice issue over a comfort issue. 

We find it easy when our comfort is being threatened to get up in arms.  We find it easy to fight against change, easy to fight against things that affect our "personal" rights, easy to sign petitions and write letters and even go protest, but are we willing to get down and get dirty and help on the relational level?  Are we willing to actually enact the change we want to see? 

So what does that have to do with my shopping trip?  I headed out today to get some yummy diabetic friendly food from Trader Joes.  This trip involves me driving off the island I live on, through the inner city and then out to a place that others call Mt Plastic.  (I've never been sure if that relates to the appearance focused culture, how many there spend money, or if it related to the view of things as disposable, but that's another blog.)  On my way out there I realized that I was taking a long trip just to get "healthy" food.  While there I realized the extreme lack of diversity in the parking lot (mine was the only car which didn't look like it was kept in a garage and had been purchased in the past 2 years) or in the store (white, upper middle class or above).  So on the way home I decided to stop at 2 stores, a corner grocery downtown and a Piggly Wiggly that was found nearish to the area and it cemented my thoughts for this blog.

In the corner grocery store there was basically nothing that could be called diabetic friendly and most everything was high sodium and fat.  There was a bit more selection in the Piggly Wiggly, but still only hard candy that was diabetic friendly and most "healthy" food is what I'd call nasty-healthy.  There was nothing like some of the things I saw at Trader Joes.  Yet in this consumer based culture why would Trader Joes or anywhere build or stock things in that area?  People there aren't going to pay the prices or buy as much as those in more affluent areas.  Nor are they as "interested" in nutrition (because they're interested in survival, saving what little money they can, making it through, etc.).  So in a consumer capitalistic culture of course there's no reason to build a place like that in an area it won't survive as a business.

So what?  Well I realize due to being diabetic shopping these places regularly isn't a real option, but at the same time it points to how we so often avoid going where we're uncomfortable to shop, eat, or do anything financial.  We don't do anything to support the areas of poverty, we rail against the system that creates the issue, but we don't get down and dirty, risking our own comfort, money, or safety to actually travel with these who are struggling.  We avoid their pain by looking at our own.  Do we have debt?  Are we struggling? Yes, but guess what, if we have smart phones, I can point to a lot of people that need our help more.  Yes, there is a place to fight to change the system, but God came to the world not to change the system, but to change the world and do it relationally.  If we're not willing to put our money and treasures where our mouths are, we're not doing anything.

We can be passionate about our precious "information superhighway" but it's not what changes the world.  Those who claim it helps the poor fight oppression, the poor fought for years without it and still do so.  Those who say it gives movements more reach, are not places and movements from before this digital age famous and became large without the help of social media?  I have nothing against fighting for free information, open source, and all of that, but to claim it's anything more than fighting for comfort is to give up the relational connective power that comes from being made in God's image in favor of something made of self.  It is a tool, it is not the source of change.  The source of change is relational, physical world relational, the movement of people is the coming together in physical community, anything less has yet to change the world.  I want to change the world, who's with me?

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