The Live Below The Line Campaign: Smart Advocacy or Global Slumming?

The Live Below the Line Campaign asks celebrities (and the rest of us) to spend a day or five eating on $1.50 a day.  Is this smart advocacy,  or is it global slumming?

Like its American counterpart the Food Stamp Challenge  the campaign purports to give privileged people the opportunity to experience the deprivations of poverty, with the aim (presumably) of making them more concerned about people who have this "opportunity" all the time.  In the case of the Food Stamp Challenge, one hopes people will become exercised enough at the minimal sustenance provided by SNAP---let alone the prospect of living without it---that they might lobby their Congresst-beasts to include an expansion rather than a cut in the next budget.

But what is the purpose of trying to experience global poverty in the United States?  If you use $1.50 for food and drink in the U.S., that means you get a banana and some tap water.   No wonder people commit to live like this for as little as one day, and no more than five.  Rather than sensitizing the participants, the exercise may well serve to make people think that living this way is impossible; and impossible tasks don't inspire.

All channels to giving are good, and if people give what they would have spent on food that day to UNICEF or CARE or any of the agencies doing serious work on desperate poverty around the world, that's a true charitable gesture.  But merely posing as a poor person doesn't really cut it.

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