Feb 5, 2009

I'd be a lousy Slumdog

The poor are much smarter than we are. I just watched Slumdog Millionaire which reminded me so much of my experience in Nicaragua. The slums of India are the centerpiece of Danny Boyle's heartfelt epic of a young boy and his drive to find his true love. Draped around this main story is the gameshow "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" which offers the teen-age Jamal the opportunity to win 20 million rupeesas well as the chance to hope that his love is watching.

Director Danny Boyle took great pains to depict the slums of Mumbai with its tin roofs and little children playing and smiling-- somehow happy. He's drawn criticisms in some corners because some thing he's made the slums seem brighter, or at least a place that's not all that bad. But he's got a point in that regard. Slums in the third world are places that to us first worlders seem degrading, horrible and inhuman. But to the people of Mumbai, it is simply home. And no matter where we call home, it is often a place that we have a fondness for and children, no matter what their social class often play and romp with little care for what surrounds them.

A second point: The poor in slums are indeed ingenious people who struggle to be sure, but yet they always find a way to get by. If any of us were in the situations they are in each day, we'd have a much harder time of it. We have so much to learn from the poor. In Nicaragua, I was impressed by the back-breaking work most of the men, young and old, did without much struggle while I was doubled over with back pain and near heat stroke. My first world ingenuity did me no good in the slum.

While few will escape this poverty, most do just fine there despite their lack of education, resources and comfort. Children are especially telling here. The orphans I visited in Nicaragua didn't need the latest iPod or cool clothes or even a tv set. All they needed was my time and my love.

The sad thing is that we let people struggle like this and allow people to live in such squalor and yet, their resilience marches on despite our indifference. Would I be able to push all that to the side and go through each day without help or without feeling a sense of control? If I'm honest with myself, probably not. Boyle's point here is not that the slums are just peachy-keen places but that the poor get by without much of what we value and take for granted and are seemingly happy nonetheless.

The movie is really about destiny--a state of life that the people of India with their caste system are deeply in touch with.

Director Danny Boyle, tells us more here with a lilt of Irish charm:

The religious violence in the movie also shows the precariousness of each day in India where lives are routinely hanging in the balance of another senseless killing over religious differences. How often do we take our religious freedom for granted and even wish that we didn't have it...that we could stop others who believe things that we think are simply stupid or backwards.

Do you believe in destiny? That everything in your life just might be leading you somewhere?

Regardless, a great movie and my vote for the Oscar this year. By far! And I've seen all of the Oscar movies.

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1 comment:

Skitt_rbrain said...

"Would I be able to push all that to the side and go through each day without help or without feeling a sense of control? If I'm honest with myself, probably not. "

I love this statement. I'm completely with you, my Americanism runs so deep that if I had no hope to lift myself out of adversity I don't think I could maintain. I've been poor... I mean poor. Still, I knew it was something I could fix. It was adolecant poverty, brought about by idealism and apathy. If I had some sort of class induced poverty that couldn't be washed away by a sacrafice of time and work I'm not sure I would have the strength to put my life together. It makes you wonder if there's some inherant part of their culture that would leave them empty if they were transplanted into some sort of entry level white collar cell.

Often I see immigrants happily working away at jobs that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I'm not talking see from a car window, I mean friends of mine that never try anything other than landscaping, cleaning houses, ect. It almost seems like "getting by" is what they're programmed to do. My wiring says "improve, aspire, compete", they just want consistant. Both attitudes are survival skills, the slums teach you to be happy with what you've got, my office teaches me that if you're not improving you're slowly being fired. I've heard from alot of people that Americans are never satisfied with anything, this seems to be equal parts helpful in the first world and handicap in the third.

I'm currently 23, Hispanic American working in a shirt and tie. When I was 17 I was living out of my 89 Caddilac doing a variety of things to get paid. Just a little background in case anyone was wondering.

Googling God

Googling God
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