I love leftovers. I have quite a full schedule most days, so a home cooked meal that’s already prepared is a lifesaver. This week I've been dining on mostly Harvest Feast leftovers, which is an especially decadent kind of leftovers. These are are extra special leftovers because the meal they came from was extra special. I am nourished in my body by the delicious food and nourished in my soul by the very recent memory of gathering with humans I love.
Experiencing abundance also puts me in mind of people who don't have enough. There are free food cupboards all over my neighborhood and local mutual aide groups coordinate regularly to bring hot meals to folks living outside all around the city. So some humans are taking care of some other humans as best as we can within our current societal structure. But that doesn't change the fact that while I sit in my nice warm home eating fifth and sixth helpings of a meal from several days ago, those folks are probably having a different experience.
Politicians and community activists put forth many ideas for how to address and eliminate the effects of poverty, including not having an indoor place to live and store possessions. At best, those initiatives and policies only address the symptoms. At worst, those initiatives and policies blame the victims for their own circumstances and make the struggle worse. Poverty causes a great many problems in society and the root cause of poverty is the extremely unequal access to resources in this country.
When I was a kid, a lot of my clothing and school supplies were hand-me-downs. I am the oldest child in my nuclear family, so I wasn't receiving a wardrobe from my older siblings. We were just poor. So I had clothes and shoes and backpacks and books from families that had access to more resources than my family. My over-worked-single-mom somehow managed to avoid framing these leftovers as shameful. It was more like getting presents from helpful and generous strangers.
I remember only one time when a class-mate made a snide remark about my pre-owned attire. At the time I was just confused. I registered (correctly) that guy was just being a jerk. But I was lucky. We lived in a nice neighborhood, I went to a school with a lot of wealthy kids, and my mom worked in an office for a lot of wealthy professionals. So the hand-me-downs we got were no well-worn discards, they were like-new leftovers.
We should all be so lucky. Wouldn't it be nice if we on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder could all have ample and shame-free access to the leavings from the lap of luxury? No. No it would not. That only sounds like kindness in the context of our current capitalist societal systems. Instead, I'd like a different system. The have-nots shouldn't be subsisting on left-overs from the ultra-wealthy. People born into poverty shouldn't have to pick up the scraps people born into wealthy decided to throw away.
Everyone should have their base needs met first. Once that is paid for, people can decided what luxurious things they want to buy with their personal extra. People who can afford to fund scientific efforts to extend their lives can afford to feed and house and educate the rest of our people. As Anand Giridharadas so eloquently said earlier this week "It is a policy choice to allow some people to accumulate that much money (hundreds of billions of dollars in the case of people in the United States) before everybody has the chance to live with dignity."
As constituents, a lot of us are inactively choosing the way things are right now. By doing nothing differently, we choose the status quo. The status quo where people with the most money make decisions the rest of us have to live with and die from. Anand Giridharadas reminds us this week that we can actively choose something different. There is plenty of precedent, even in our own national history. I would like to make the choice to redistribute excess wealth. I would like us all to make that choice.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.