I just wanted to talk a bit about the story referenced in the track Strange of D-2 Mixtape, in this line.
The wealthy even covets poverty, in a greedy way.
This part doesn’t really add much to the interpretation of the lyrics, but I just like this story, so I wanted to ramble a bit about it. Please feel free to skip this part if you’re not interested.
“The Stolen Poverty (1975)” by Park Wan-suh is a story about a young woman who is newly and proudly living a life of poverty. It is written in her point of view.
She grew up in a family that was well off. When her father was laid off, her mother couldn’t give up the appearance of affluence, so she pressures the father to start up businesses so she can play the role of the CEO’s wife. Until the family blows all their money and ends up living an impoverished life in a poor neighborhood.
The girl cannot understand why the family cannot still live a good life. They have no young kids or elderly to take care of. Her parents, brother and herself are all of age to make an income and she sees other poor people around her living poor but reasonable lives.
She returns from home from work one day to find that rest of her family have committed suicide together. I don’t know if it’s a coping mechanism, but she embraces poverty after this. She thinks that while her mom looked down on poverty, the truth was that her mom was afraid of the poverty. And she herself is able to be comfortable and embrace this thing that her mom was afraid of. She is proud of this.
At this point, a young man enters that she likes. He is also poor. She invited him to live with her, with “saving money” as the excuse, although in truth she really likes him. She tries to teach him how the poor must help each other, within their means. One time, his co-worker is coughing up blood and gets laid off. She tells him that he should help his friend a bit… only to find out in shock that he had given all his wages to his friend.
This is the first indication that something is not quite right. The boy doesn’t care deeply for the sick friend – he’s just given him money because he wants praise from the girl. Nor does he care that he’s given all his wages away as if the money didn’t matter.
Then he disappears, only to turn up some time later to claim that he is actually son of a very wealthy man, who wanted him to learn about the world by experiencing poverty. He tells her how he thought it was so interesting that poor girls would be willing to live with men for such a small sum of money. He offers her a job as a maid in his home, in his attempts to be helpful.
She swears and yells at him and kicks him out.
It ends like this (translated quickly so not terribly accurate):
“I see you’ve unfortunately gone insane,” he mumbled as he picked up his shoes and ran away, but I’m sure he’ll forget me very soon. Just like he easily forgot about his sick friend.
After I chased him off, I came back to my room, showing off how proudly and bravely I had protected my own poverty. But my room was no longer my room from a moment ago. The drooping and stained wallpaper, the luggage with broken zipper, the wobbly table, the transistor radio with large battery, and the dented pots and dishes. While these were still in same place as yesterday, they were not the same as those of yesterday. They were merely meaningless and ugly. These things were components that busily made up my poverty yesterday, but they were ugly meaningless clutter now. Just like when houses are demolished and the slates, mud, cement bricks and doors become a pile of garbage, the objects of my life had become deserted dirty clutter. And I didn’t think I could save these things again. In my room, there was no longer even poverty. I finally realized that he had stolen the poverty. I ground my teeth in anger. But my poverty, how could I get the meaning of my poverty back?
I know from the fall of my own family how greedy the wealthy are. I know that even if they have 99 things, they will greedily covet even the one thing others have. But I had never imagined that they would covet the poverty. That it wasn’t enough that they had shining education and experiences, that they had to steal poverty to make their already interesting lives more interesting.
I felt the darkest despair when the poverty was stolen, that I had not even felt when we had lost everything.
As if to add to the pile of garbage, I threw myself in the middle of the meaningless devastation and gave myself to the bone chilling cold.
The story is referenced when people use something more painful and complicated, in a superficial way for their own benefit, just like the boy used the poverty to gain life experience. I actually don’t think the boy is bad – he just didn’t understand the depth of pain and complexity, which made him overly confident that he could provide a quick fix. This is a fairly common phenomenon.
In a way, if the girl was not so freshly hurt by her poverty or had personal feeling involved, she could have guided him to have more experience and understanding of poverty, as long as he was interested in doing so. Maybe he could have grown up to be a man who could have helped society in many ways.
Personally, I’m actually not all that keen cancelling the overly enthusiastic people, just because they really don’t understand the issues, as long as the intentions are sincere. Because you really can’t get to 90% understanding without going through 10%, 20%, etc. In that way, I find the characters of this story to be a bit unfortunate, as I feel neither really meant harm but were just not ready to tackle this complex issue together.
Recently, the idea was getting referenced when people claim they’re hikikomori when they’re not, for whatever reason (eg. to feel cooler, or to have excuse not to find jobs, etc). This made people who actually were hikikomori feel like the term was appropriated by others, and made trivial. Quite often, when this story is referenced, it is used to indicate that it is very bad to be trivializing a complex issue that causes people so much suffering.
Quite commonly, the idea is referenced when politicians take photos with the poor, for their own political gain. This is especially so, if these politicians have not consistently done anything helpful for the poor, but only use them for the photo-op.
But then, there are actually some politicians who do want to help, but may need a bit of guidance. Sometimes, you need to give people at least some benefit of the doubt.
I guess it comes down to the motivation. If they’re sincere even if they’re not deeply understanding of these issues, all you can hope is that these people will increase their knowledge over time.