After attending Dr. Ken Cooper’s “Small is Beautiful: The Poetics of Relocalization” on March 23rd, I thought about this lifestyle of living using “exactly what you need, and nothing more.” This made me reflect to Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and how he lived a minimalist lifestyle in a cabin in the woods. One of Thoreau’s critiques is of the Irish immigrant family living impoverished in the woods to which he gives the advice of living using only necessary resources. What I believe Thoreau did not address was the cyclic nature of poverty, and how living a minimalistic lifestyle, when a choice, is often glamorized in a disrespectful manner.
I came across the article, “The Troubling Trendiness of Poverty Appropriation,” by July Westhale, conveniently after Dr. Cooper’s “Small is Beautiful” lecture. Dr. Cooper addressed the privilege behind in living tiny houses that are often located near beautiful natural sceneries including beaches and mountain ranges.
The article focuses on is the trendiness from “dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples.” The author, who grew up in a mobile home, finds these trends troubling due to the privilege of choice. She states, “This idea of ‘returning’ to a ‘simple life’ in one I struggle with,” primarily because these demographic has the choice to “return to a simple life.” This “hipster movement” has “brought with it an ethos of poor-culture appropriation and the ‘re-invention’ of things that have largely been tools for survival for poor, disabled, working class, and/or communities of color for decades.”
The power of choice is what sets the people who are truly poverty-stricken and forced into these conditions versus those who choose to live this way to attain a status of trendiness.