[Traduction française ICI]
In case you haven’t heard, the Emoya people have built a fake shanty town consisting of “shacks” so that guests can experience ‘what it’s like’ to stay in a shanty town. For R850 (€60; $82) – about half the average monthly wage in South Africa – you and three friends, family members or colleagues can spend a night in a shack made of corrugated iron sheets. The “shanty town” has room for 52 guests. I kid you not.
It’s not known how many takers Emoya have had for this service, but it is clear they have no idea what it is like to have to live in a shanty town, or why someone who does not have to live in one cannot ever “experience” what it is like. Even if you spend a month living in a real shanty town, you still can’t know what it is like.
A shanty town, according to Wikipedia, is ‘a slum settlement of plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, and cardboard boxes. They are usually found on the periphery of cities, public parks, or near railroad tracks, rivers, lagoons or city trash dump sites. Sometimes called a squatter, informal or spontaneous settlement, shanty towns often lack proper sanitation, safe water supply, electricity, hygienic streets, or other basic human necessities.’
Some of the problems experienced by people living in shanty towns are:
- Overcrowding – shanty towns tend to have a population density
- Fires – fires can spread quickly in shanty towns, and shacks burn very quickly
- Overpopulation – resources insufficient to support the population
- High competition for jobs, because they’re in short supply
- Disease – poor sanitation and limited health care can lead to the spread of disease
- Infrastructure – services are poor, public transport is limited and connections to the electricity supply can be limited and sometimes dangerous
I apologise if this comes across as didactic, but it appears there are still some people on this planet who have no idea of what it means to live in a slum/shanty town.
There are one billion people worldwide living in slums, and I’ll hazard a guess that not one of them would continue to do so if they had a choice. Choice is the reason why the idea of “experiencing” what it is like is complete nonsense.
If you have to live in a shack built from cardboard and corrugated metal sheets, you are, relatively speaking, poor, and poverty is about not having choices. By accident of birth, you find yourself growing up and living in a shack in a shanty town. It’s not a moral failing, though some people appear to see it as such, but to the person living in a shack it can feel like failure, mainly because that’s the message society transmits.
Poverty is about having limited prospects and battling uphill with both hands tied behind your back. It’s about people treating you like an idiot and not listening to you when you speak, simply because they had the good fortune to have been born under circumstances more favourable than yours. It’s about fighting every day to hang on to your dignity, while others, knowingly or inadvertently, try to strip you of it. It’s about constant worry: will you have enough to eat tomorrow? Next week? Can you afford to get ill, and what happens if you do? Will your shack be demolished tomorrow morning because it was built “illegally”, rendering you homeless?
You can’t experience any of that unless you actually are poor, and you can’t walk away from poverty, or from your shack, overnight or in a week or when you’ve had enough of the “experience”. So all any guest in one of these “shack” will experience is a night or more of camping.
But this is camping in style, so “Shanty Town’s” shacks have the following amenities:
Under floor heating Long-drop effect toilets
Donkey geysers Electricity
Electrical geysers Bathroom with shower
Braai facilities on request
They even have Wi-Fi! Exactly like regular shacks, then.
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