This month my book club read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a book that was pretty far out of my reading norm. The story, set in modern day Mumbai, India, was written by Katherine Boo, an American woman who spent three years in the slums of Mumbai interviewing locals and observing the daily comings and goings of the residents.
Let me preface this with a small disclaimer. I am something of a Pollyanna innocent. I tend to see the best in people. I tend to imagine that people are better off than they are.
I knew that many people in India live in extreme poverty. I just don’t think I grasped just how atrocious their quality of life really was.
The book was incredibly well written and researched. It read just like a novel, and it was hard at times to force myself to remember that it was all true, all documented, all still happening today.
Aside from being an incurable Pollyanna, I also happen to be a bleeding heart liberal. And, let me tell you, that’s a terrible combination.
See, until I dove deep into this book’s story, I kinda harbored some faith in the notion that if you donate enough time and money to a cause you can actually help people.
But no. See, what I wasn’t taking into account was the rampant corruption this book exposes. Start with money and good intentions at the top, but by the time it trickles down, lining pockets as it goes, it won’t get to the people who need it most.
Now, one of my friends last night exhorted me to come up with a solution, but I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t have one.
How do you help people who have no interest in helping each other?
I’m glad I read this book, but a little part of me would like to still live in my head where people down on their luck still find it in their hearts to be kind to the people around them, just because it’s what people do. (It’s pretty in my head. You should come visit. We have tea and cookies.)
The thing that’s still going around and around in my head is this.
India houses 1/4 of the world’s hungry, 1/3rd of the world’s impovrished. If those people stopped fighting with each other, stopped stabbing each other in the back to get a tiny bit ahead, stopped robbing each other blind, if those people started working together, trusting each other, helping each other, they could overthow the entire country, the entire corrupt system, in a matter of weeks.
I woke up this morning with the same thought buzzing in my head. Then I hopped onto Facebook and saw that the topic of the day was once again “the Mommy Wars.” (Thank you CNN.) Once again, as we hash out Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, we’re once again seeing women spend countless hours tearing each other down, discrediting each other, back stabbing each other.
I have news for you people.
We’re fighting the wrong people.
Tearing another woman down in an effort to get ahead only serves to bring down all of womankind. You’re not gaining anything.
What could we achieve if instead of envying others their success, if instead of wasting time sabotaging others, if instead of judging, critiquing, and tearing down, we stood shoulder to shoulder and helped each other up?
Maybe, like the residents of the slums we could also overthrow a system that doesn’t serve us. Or are we, like them, too wrapped up in our pettiness and envy to ever achieve that goal?
|Wonderful read. Truly eye opening. But don’t believe the cover, there wasn’t a lot of hope in there.|