What it Takes to Survive…
These days is about survival. We are all surviving or at least trying to. Covid 19 on a rampage, lockdowns in place and job security non-existent. In such trying times I have always wondered what people would do to survive. There’s desperation everywhere. Some people are literally eating Marie biscuits because that is all the food they have. They are day wage earner – electricians, plumbers – and they have no income. Some are hoping for the government relief packs or the Rs. 5000 which will probably not come their way as they are not registered with the Grama Sevaka as they are from out of Colombo. Hence they are eating Jak fruit and rice because that is all remaining in the house. They also have about 4 children when they can’t even afford to pay for one. These people are desperate.
Like the man who went looking for food and was beaten by the cops and run over by a bus. Great Sri Lanka Sanskruthiya and Buddhist compassion in action. Not.
The rest of us are enjoying the spoils of having money, credit cards and access to the internet and online shopping. The worries are a scarcity of alcohol and proteins that we are used to – chicken, eggs, meat etc. Luxuries that the common man cannot even think of affording on a normal day let alone now.
In the midst of this, a hairdresser and a known model are arrested for throwing a party. Their argument? We have not murdered or sold drugs. We only organized a party. Yes not a great crime. But it’s lockdown and people are dying. But hey, this is privilege. And it shows starkly the disparity between the haves and the have nots. What is missing in one person’s life is food. In another person’s life it is entertainment because food is already a given and it is there.
It’s easy to preach many things sitting in the lap of luxury. Morality, doing the right thing, staying at home and being safe.
Would you, when your children were starving, stay at home guarding yourself against Covid 19 or would you venture out and take whatever risk to feed them? One has to have been hungry and without food to know what it’s like to beg for food from others. When you are locked down with no money and no one to help you, what do you do? You do what it takes. You take whatever risk, however foolish, because basic survival calls for food, clothing and shelter. Three things that one needs as per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And when you don’t have these, can you be telling someone to stay safe and not go out?
It’s very easy to preach morality to the poor. When you have nothing, how can you focus on the greater good? Some do but most are driven by their need to satiate their immediate needs. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And this is true of human nature. It’s very easy to preach the gospel when you are on the right hand of the Lord. It’s very hard to understand it though when you are sitting in the depths of hell.
This is why it’s never black and white when we look at why people do the things they do. Take a sex worker. Why are they there? Because there is a demand. Why can’t they do another job? Because the money is good. Is it fair to judge them on a moral high ground and say that they should have made better life choices? Perhaps they should have. But maybe they did what was needed to survive. Many are a sad tale as to how they ended up becoming what they are. And many are the choices that we do not always understand. What seems like a foolish decision to one may be considered the best decision to another.
Each person’s reality is very different. We see what we want to see and we do what we think is best. Someone looking from the outside may be shaking their heads in disagreement but that does not mean that the person concerned realizes it. Perhaps we should remember that the next time we are quick to pass judgment on people and condemn them for immorality, poor life choices etc.
Each one is trying to survive. And your battle can never be understood by another. Coz it’s you on the war front, often with no weapon except for what you know. And sometimes the things you know are not the greatest but it’s your choice to use them as you see fit.