The World and My Village, “Subjectivity of Poverty”

My father was inspired to become an artist when he was a teenager and lived in an extremely remote village in the south of Nepal. He would help his grandmother draw traditional art on the walls of the houses and that, combined with a fascination with hand made film posters, are what influenced him to move to the capital. He takes me to the village quite frequently and it is still very much cut off from the out side world. perhaps the fundamentality of the village and the simplicity, consensus with which the individuals live there can serve as a contrast to the outside complexity of the world and better help understand the disparities that have come to exist in modern times.

It superficially seems rather peculiar for an individual from one of the poorer parts of the globe to develop an interest in art and expression; It would seem more likely that my father should have gotten into a field where the income seemed more fixed — this could prove evidence to an argument about the subjectivity of poverty, how the relationship between poverty and happiness differ in pre-modern societies and modern ones. In today’s societies wealth plays a crucial  factor in the statuses that people are prescribed. The large income gaps that exist, combined with a variety of modern perspectives towards success, create a complexity of attitudes leading to discrimination in today’s society that wouldn’t exist in pre-modern societies. In the village people wouldn’t be judged based upon how much money they made; there were only little differences between the incomes of people and the way people spent their incomes.

Small huts selling tea would be the closest an establishment got to a restaurant, such places functioned to socialize individuals  and served to let people from a variety of backgrounds interact .  There is a lack of such settings in today’s societies. Firms today aim their products specifically at different groups of people; this fuels discrimination and further adds to the complexity in solving such discrimination. CEOs and low wage employees cannot come to a golf course to find common ground amongst one another. Heterosexual individuals are rarely seen in Gay clubs.

The mentally unwell aren’t seen out in the open today to the same extent as they would be in pre-modern societies such as my village. In his first book, ‘Madness and Civilization”, Michael Foucault commented on how societies today have created a sort of medicalized perspective towards individuals that do not follow a pattern in society. He talked greatly of the people’s attitudes towards the insane . In the book, Foucault analyzed how,in pre-modern times, insanity was looked upon as being something to learn from: how the insane were looked upon as having a kind of wisdom that allowed them to disregard logic, hence making them ‘different’ rather than ‘unwell’. Today, with more developments in psychology and medicine, societies have enforced a framework upon the mentally unwell with upholds their freedoms. This analogy, if applied to other societal phenomena, can distressingly show us how there exists a trend of enforcing change upon what is different and how such enforcement can undermine integration: The British empire trying to enforce, upon the world, what they thought was a more ‘civilized’ lifestyle, ISIS trying to enforce upon Middle Eastern people, what they think is the correct form of belief.

It is evident that there is great complexity in choosing ways in which to bring wanted social change. Humanity can not fight racism and Xenophobia with larger guns and taller fences nor can it fight terrorism by dropping books on terrorist settlements. A frustrating about of inequalities exist in our time and it is true that their causes and solutions are complex. But the very fact  that individuals are able to analyze their societies and understand the complications that exist within them, reflects a possibility that the tomorrow we are heading towards, holds a conscious and smarter form of consensus that perhaps beats that of the one found in pre-modern societies like my Village.

Writer: Ayush Kumar Shah

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