Tag Archives: poverty

Winnipeg, I love you.

Forces_aligning

Yes, I do feel it, forces lining against me. Friends are nowhere to be found as well. I sound like a high school kid, I know. And that’s part of my depression. I should be too old to sound like a high school kid right now. In any case, it’s a good thing my wife is here with me. We might have our problems now and then, but she truly is my silver lining lately

Saw this on Vice News the other day. It’s a bit out of nowhere. I’m watching news on Ukraine, then the plight of the abandoned English interpreters in Afghanistan, then boom, something from my old neighborhood… the Aboriginal gangs of Winnipeg.

God bless Vice News actually. They actually do stories which other news outlets choose to ignore since it doesn’t fit their narrative. Anyway, I was a bit surprised with the resurgence of Aboriginal gangs in Winnipeg. The last time I heard of the Indian Posse was back in the mid-90s. Then the Hell’s Angels came to town and the Indian Posse as well as other Aboriginal gangs sort of disappeared. And the last time I had any conversations with locals regarding crime and gang activities in the city, it was mostly Asians involved in gang activity, not Aboriginals.

I’m really glad they did this story. I’m also glad that they also looked at the systematic racism that the First Nations have suffered and continue to suffer through. It’s something that is quite common knowledge with anyone who’s open-minded enough to take even the most superficial look at the subject, but you still get people arguing against the “benefits” Aboriginal people get. Canada can be the most inclusive, most generous country in the world. The country prides itself in its multiculturalism. Around 95% of landed immigrants eventually become citizens and truly believe they belong in Canada. Yet it’s a big shame that many Aboriginal people see themselves as marginalized, or worse, their rights downright ignored. No wonder you see poverty, substance abuse, and gang violence.

I would go into a rant about the Canadian government abusing the environment and harming Aboriginal communities in the name of the almighty dollar, but unfortunately the history and list of grievances would be too long (Alberta oil sands is one of the biggest news at the moment). I leave that to the conscientious reader.

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Being “Poor” Despite Everything

American_VirginLet’s talk about my friend, Greg.

Greg has a full-time job. Aside from the full-time job, he has two other jobs he does on the side. He tries not to say no to extra work, especially while he’s still young and the opportunity is there. Now, he’s not rich, but he earns more than your regular salary man… it’s enough that his boss thinks he’s overpaid. He earns enough to be able to support his wife, go out now and then, travel when needed, buy stuff that would keep him distracted, and help out family should they ever ask. He doesn’t spend much on himself. He eats two meals a day, rarely buys clothes, and keep everything he has until they’re too old to function (like his ancient computer or his old phone).

Now what does he not have? He doesn’t own a house. He wishes he could. He wishes he could invest in one, but the real estate market in South Korea is ridiculously expensive and people are highly dependent on debt. And he’s not about to borrow money from the bank. So he wastes money on rent. He doesn’t own a vehicle. He doesn’t care much for cars nor does he need one. He doesn’t have kids and doesn’t travel outside the city. Why bother with cars, gas, and parking? In many ways, he hasn’t really carved out a typical adult life with debt, mortgages, property, etc.

And so what do he get from all of this? He gets told that he’s poor.

His wife tells him that he is poor.

The comment was just said in passing. It wasn’t meant to be critical nor hurtful. It was just an observation mentioned in the middle of a conversation about something else entirely. Perhaps she meant “poorer,” who knows? Still, it didn’t make it sting any less. Blah, blah, blah… you are poor…. Blah, blah, blah, blah. It stuck out like a sore thumb.

It’s not that he has a problem being poor. Heck, he’s an artist and didn’t really have a rich upbringing. But it’s the fact that he works too hard, earns too high, spends too much, and buys too much stuff that he doesn’t need to be called “poor.” It’s like all the things he’s done doesn’t matter. That despite waking up early, resigning to a life of being a cog in a joyless company, despite sacrificing doing things he would really rather be doing, it all doesn’t matter.

He is poor. He is poor because his life does not compare to the neighbors’. He is poor because his life doesn’t compare to the ones on television.

And really, that is the rub. More than the personal hurt, the skewed perspective bothers him more. His wife has never been hungry. He’s never said no to the things she wants. He has supported her through her studies and continue to support her even after. But that one comment tells him it all doesn’t seem to matter. It’s not that he’s fully content with his life right now. Sure, things could be better. He’s got ambitions too. Like the average human being, he wants the house with the backyard, the car, the mortgage, and everything. Someday, maybe. But there is no true poverty in his life at the moment. He’s seen true poverty. This is not it. If anything, it is selfish affluence and indulgence that have skewed what true poverty really is… the luxury of being offended by poverty. Greg’s wife thinks that he is poor. Greg is hurt at the idea of being called “poor.” You know what the poor are probably hurt about? Actually being poor.

In any case, he doesn’t deserve to be called poor, not after he’s tried everything in his power to give whatever his wife wanted.

It is one thing to be looked down upon by others. He kinda deals with that everyday, especially being a foreigner here in South Korea. He’s gotten used to it. But it’s another to be looked down upon by people you care about the most… even if it was just a comment in passing.

We all get carried away with things. I believe that that comment was just his wife getting carried away. Greg doesn’t need to work three jobs. He just needed one. He works too much that he barely has enough time to do what he truly wants to do: make art. But it’s all the stuff we don’t need, it’s doing the things we don’t really have to do, it’s comparing ourselves to others and competing in this endless Facebook wealth one-upmanship- it’s eventually what consumes his life and makes him and the rest of us miserable.

 

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