Sunday, 2 August 2009

unpacking privilege

we were watching the film "out of the blue" yesterday, about the aramoana tragedy, but this post really isn't about that incident. rather, one of my kids couldn't believe that people lived in the modest houses like some of the ones she saw in the film. and it occurred to me that she really doesn't have any idea about poverty, not really, not any kind of personal experience.

i've tried through their lives to give my kids an understanding of their privilege. of explaining to them that they are lucky to live in a nice neighbourhood, and to go to good schools. they have nice clothes and good friends and a supportive extended family around them. they have never had to feel hunger out of need, never had to feel the stress that poverty brings. and all of these things are a matter of chance. the vast majority of the world is not so lucky.

i thought i explained it and i thought they understood. but now and then, one of them will come up with a comment like that, and i feel like i haven't explained it well enough. they will give a portion of their money in charity, they understand about sharing what they have. but they don't identify with people who have to struggle for the basics, and i think this is not a good thing.

i guess what i really want is for them to be more aware, more conscious of all these things. maybe it will come with time. or maybe i need to be taking them to volunteer at the city mission & other such places, because i think this is one of the most important lessons in life and i haven't fulfilled my duty as a parent until they really have learnt it well.


Anita said...

You might find this interesting – the Children's Commissioner found ways of allowing children to talk about their understandings and experiences of poverty in NZ. There are photos, art, and words, a quick example from Dunedin children;

“Poverty is…not getting proper opportunities like going on school trips, hard to take part in things like sports and other activities”.

“Poverty is…Hard working parents but still unable to support their family. Parents working too much and unable to spend time with their children, missing special occasions like birthdays”.

“Poverty is…“Children left home alone as parents need to work. Children having to stay at home to look after brothers and sisters.”

“Stealing because you don’t have something and need it”.

Boganette said...

On Christmas Day after we'd opened all our presents my dad would make us pick one present to give to St Vinnys. He also always bought videos home from his travels - shanty towns in South Africa, orphanages in Thailand etc. And we'd watch them together while talking about those children and their lives.

But I don't think you ever really understand until you're older.

stargazer said...

re the xmas presents, as i mentioned in my post, my kids are good at setting part of their money aside to donate. the problem is that the donation is going to nameless faceless people who they've never met. the videos, on the other hand, sound like a really good idea! as is the website, thanx anita.

Anna said...

I think your parents' strategy is fantastic, Boganette, although I agree that it's hard as a kid to understand poverty (unless you're experiencing it) - particularly the social meaning of poverty and the exclusion that can go along with it.

I try to tread that fine line between making my kids aware of the world, and not scaring or upsetting them. My daughter (almost 7) has only recently begun to see the point of money. She used to want to give away her pocket money, because she thought other people needed it and she didn't. She's probably right!

katy said...

I was thinking about a tangentially related topic recently after speaking with an American friend of mine who lives in Tokyo. He goes out at 5am once a week to help distribute food to homeless people and mentioned that some of the big US companies in Tokyo require their American employees to undertake this voluntary work also. He commented on how sobering it is for him to see these people wait for what is really only a tiny amount of food and I have to say that I was pleased to hear that the employees (privileged MBAs etc) he mentioned were also being exposed to poverty in such a direct way. Even being older doesn't necessarily mean you see what is right in front of your face.