Perceptional poverty in the World of riches

Vimal Kumar


A shadow of Perceptional poverty | Photo by Heamosoo Kim on Unsplash

Despite the level of staggering economic development around the world, there are many poor people around the globe. Poverty has its deep-rooted home in most countries. There is poverty in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Contrary to established myth, there is poverty in the UK, Singapore, and even in the capital of the planet, the USA. If we go a little deeper in statistics, according to the Brookings report India had 73 million people living in extreme poverty which makes up 5.5% of its total population and at the same time, U.S. Census Bureau found that 38.1 million people in the USA is below the poverty line about one in eight. Being in poverty is nothing but wretchedness and whatever attempts are made so far, the words are still incapable to alleviate the pain agony inflicted by poverty.

Poverty has different shades of colour. The Colour of poverty in the United States and that of poverty in India is not the same. However, it inflicts the same pain but the underlying foundation is uniquely different. In some places, people are hungry for food.  In some places, people are deprived of shelter. In some places, people are deprived of the internet, access to social media, etc. These are still termed poverty but relative in nature. However, there is a type of poverty, which is uniformly common throughout the globe in the world o riches. It also draws subsistence from existence. It is perceptional poverty that gets nutrition from uncontrolled expectation.

Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher once said:

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

Craving or uncontrolled expectation is the creeping foundation at which an ugly castle of perceptional poverty exists. If the foundation has no existence, the castle has no existence, either. Perceptional poverty is not true poverty but inflicts similar pain of poverty. Probably, it is not at all poverty but perceived as poverty of the same size, colour, and the dimension of true poverty. It is like an unsatiated thirst or unrequited love where the desire to seek something else, which is, of course, illusional in nature, is stronger than to seek the true need.

So, the questions pop up: how cravings or uncontrolled expectations kick in? In fact, we as human or at least human with the general level of understanding do not know. Not easy to comprehend. If we know and observe consciously, probably, cravings will not originate in the first place. It comes sneakingly, tempts us to ride on its cushioned back, and we feel dejected and fallen apart as we become aware of where we are! However, the point is not to keep observing our behaviour every minute and second. It may not be possible either without draining our vital energy. Certainly, we can do such observation selectively at moment or places at which cravings, generally, kick in. That may have better usage and optimisation of our vital energy of focus and to a  great extent, we have hit the jackpot.

At this point in time in human development, there are numerous decoys developed due to either natural course or deliberately designed for cravings to originate. Such traps could be environments like shopping malls, shops, movie theatre with the sensation of aroma, music, light which evoke the memory of good times. These are often in form of embedded commands in form of advertisements, social media indulgence to the unrealistic world and infusing a sense of insecurity and deprivation. Environment plays a key role in moulding our behaviour in their way. Typically, shopping malls, shops, and bars are designed with features but could not be limited to lights, music, even geometry which evoke the memory of good times. We have an innate inclination to colour ourselves in the light of our surroundings. If something fake falsifying is blatantly displayed as great convincingly, we are inclined to behave that way. There was an interesting study carried out at Stanford University to understand interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison environment. In the study, half of the volunteers were acted as prison workers, and the other half acted as prison inmates. Results were astounding. Previously tested to psychologically sound people, the participants (inmates and guards) became increasingly hostile, crude, rebellious and abusive. One of the prison inmates became so hysterical and emotionally distressed that the experiment was called off in one week instead of the planned duration of two weeks. All data lead to the conclusion that this simulated prison developed into a compelling prison environment, and as such, it elicited intense pathological reactions from the participants. A loss of personal identity by the prisoners and the arbitrary control of their behaviour resulted in a syndrome characterized by passivity, dependency, depression, and helplessness.

Embedded commands in form of advertisements, social media indulging human for grossly exposure to the unrealistic world and infusing a sense of insecurity and deprivation. Embedded commands like “buy now”, how great you are!”, or “enjoy life” are kind of autosuggestions which changes our attitudes or beliefs unnoticeably and subconscious mind create internal realities in form of cravings, expectations to align with such command. Social media often adds fuel to such fire.  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study and found a few disturbing trends. Study participants who spent the most time on social media each day were 2.2 times more likely to report that they had issues with body image and eating. Contrary to that, participants who spent less time on social media did not report those concerns.

A couple of days ago, during the festive season of Christmas and New year 2021, I, along with my wife and daughter, was sitting idle at home during the seasonal blip of the holiday. It all started with bringing our little daughter outside as she was getting cranky at home. We went to a shopping mall, which is home to all kinds of necessary and unnecessary shops along with a playground for the kids. We were welcomed by lights, hung around giant Christmas tree, dimming and glowing at a usual pace. The tree was covered with a red leaflet calligraphed “Season of Love.”  Some of the leaflets were still hanging and displaying what season we are in, some were fallen apart, and some were trampled and crumpled under the reckless feet of shoppers.

We held an escalator and kept inching up in its metallic, melodious, and thudding sound and reached the fourth floor, where the children playground was located. My daughter with a giggling face started climbing the ladder for the joy of spiral slide and we became busy with our mobile in clicking pictures of her and ours. While keeping an eye on her, our eyes were pulled by a large billboard. We could see “Sale, Sale, Sale, up to 80% off” marked in red bold fonts. The height of the fonts was almost that of a human adult. We took a leisurely stroll to see what the outlet has to offer and waited and went from one fitting room to another. It was almost a couple of hours and time to be back home. While placing the stroller and multiple bags of clothes in the boot of the taxi, I felt tired with the tinging numbness definitely not of pain but being poor.

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