Actor/director Ben Affleck has made a pledge to live on $1.50 per day for for five days. This is the “Live Below the Line” challenge, taking place from April 29 through May 3. The following countries are participating in the challenge: U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Participants can only spend the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for the country the live. For the U.S., that is $1.50 per day.
According to its website, the purpose of the challenge is “to give a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the poverty line everyday.” Ben Affleck tweeted his intent to participate in the challenge and asked followers “Will you?” The U.S. site has raised almost $150,000. It also displays a leaderboard of nearly 3,000 participants and 160 teams raising funds.
It’s a nice idea and I certainly hope for much success and funds to be raised to help aid those who must live at such extreme poverty levels. That being said, this kind of awareness/fundraising smacks of a feel good type of charity for the participants, as opposed to a do good type.
For example, most people in the U.S. do not have a private limousine pick us up at our mansions and drive us to our jobs. So what if those who commute in such a way all got together and said they’d be taking public transportation to their respective offices for five days to raise awareness about how the rest of us commute to our respective jobs. Would you care or appreciate that effort or even accept a few dollars if they decided to raise funds for their challenge?
So if you were living on $1.50 per day for food and drink, would you care if 20,000 (the website’s estimate of total participants in all countries) people who live on more than the extreme poverty line per day shared in your plight for five days? I’m not dismissing the U.S.’s nearly $150,000 in funds raised, but if you divide that by 1.4 billion people, well, it seems to be more of a feel good effor rather than a do good one.
In the U.S., one can purchase a 50 pound bag of rice for $52.99 (via Amazon.com search). That would be less than the $1,50 per day and over one pound of rice per day. Not saying I’d enjoy this diet one bit, or envy anyone who has to endure such eating habits, but it is possible — especially for five days. And those participating can still drive in cars, watch TV, talk on cell phones, etc. In January 2013, I had a stomach virus and didn’t early for nearly two days. So, do I now understand what it’s like to starve? Hardly. And this is what I’m getting at (or at least what I think I’m getting at).
It’s like having someone slap you in the face to feel one’s pain who has been punched in the face by a heavyweight boxer. It’s just jockeying to be able to say, I understand how you feel. And that is all well and good, but put food on someone’s place it does not. I was born in Paterson, NJ, but I did not live there. Does that mean I can say I know how challenging it can be to live in that area because that is my place of birth (Paterson, NJ is a historic city but has poverty and crime that make parts of it less desirable to live in)?
Mr. Affleck is a wealthy and successful director and actor. His estimated net worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 million. Tweeting that he’s going to participate in this challenge His 2012 movie Argo nabbed the Academy’s Best Picture. And it was based on actual events. So, it seems Affleck could offer more in his chosen profession to raise awareness and money by making a film about the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty worldwide.