I was watching a show on hulu yesterday and an ad came on during one of the breaks asking you to donate $25 towards loans for Peruvians to go to college. I’m an awful person, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Then I shared the ad with my boyfriend and we laughed together.
My boyfriend lives in Peru. He is poor. He can’t afford to live the way I do, and often barely can afford to live the way he does. He was born and raised in Peru and has been through some awful life circumstances. But he goes to a great school and he tries his hardest to make things work with the little money he has.
That commercial really emphasized the fact that we separate ourselves so much from the “other”, to the point where we hardly see them as people any more. For a moment, Peru became “just another one of those places that needs help”, beckoning you to send in your money to save the world (or at least Peru), and the US became “that big, rich, far-off country” that would support everyone but itself. My boyfriend was just another Peruvian boy trying to go to college and get a good job, and I was just another apathetic twenty-something attending my expensive, private university.
But that’s not what Peru is to me. I know how awful the government can be and how corrupt the officials are. I also know that just because you are poor does not mean you cannot make a decent living. Frankly, I could pay for my boyfriend’s education single-handedly, because Peruvian public colleges are free. The only thing he pays are registration fees. My boyfriend even tells me that the public schools are better than the private ones right now.
I realize that if I did not know my boyfriend, Peru would most likely still be one of those “other” countries to me. But because I know my boyfriend, suddenly the country seems a lot less foreign and a lot more… human. It’s amazing how media conditioning and separation (media separation?) can make you feel so disconnected.