Individuality or No Empathy?

By Putri Sood

There are those who spend a few month’s rent on trip to the bahamas, and those who can’t even pay rent. Introducing: the big bad wealth gap.

Though the lives of humans have many factors that affect it, there is simply no denying that the human race is a slave to money. We thrive on little paper slips, and without it, we are bucked to the arse of society, the back alley where the rats hang out. Contrary to the romantic story of Cinderella, the rats, ladies and money-hungry-men, are not our friends. I assure you that half of the world’s population living under $2.50 can attest to that. Money problems are not fun, and the only people who can fight it is us.

We have been raised to measure success through money. We are told to grow up and do well for ourselves. One thing hasn’t changed, we were and are never taught that learning the pythagorean theorem is as important as looking out for the person next to us.

Why shouldn’t our neighbor’s struggle with a lack of money affect us? Are we individualistic to the point of zero empathy?

This is the reality that the whole world faces, both true for developed or undeveloped countries.

The United States, a nation of individuality at it’s finest. The American Dream narrative has been the country’s most attractive possibility to many. Yes, there are success stories, but what about the stories that don’t work out? What about the everyday American who is struggling to pay rent?

Bad news, their situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. The wealth gap is ever growing. Since 1975, people in the 80th percentile of earners acquired an average of $104,906 (2012), keep in mind the median income nationwide is $51,017.

Freedom and individuality are what many Americans pride themselves upon. There has been a general consensus that you are responsible for the life you lead, and it is nobody else’s problem if you are struggling. This message is loud and clear as the top 20% contribute a measly 1.3% of their income to charity.

With this ideology, comes a price. A price that means trips to the bahamas for some and eviction notices for others. Is this worth it?

As we know, poverty has been an ongoing thread since what seems to be the beginning of time. The insufficiency of money looks different around the world. Nampedi’s story shares little in common with an American who doesn’t earn enough, but both struggle because of the same reason.

Nampedi Wizilamu scrapes mud off his wall, mixes it with water and brushes his teeth with it. This is “toothpaste” as known to the humble village of Akaniaka in Malawi. The article or rather collection of photographs and captions by the BBC Capital, “What Income Around the World Looks Like” would expose us to what reality means to the majority of the world.

We hear about poverty all the time. People fighting against it, people living it, people fearing it. But we don’t know that it actually means. Wizilamu is not a name on a page, he is not an anecdote structured to pull on your heart strings, and he is most certainly not a number lost in a staggering statistic. Wizilamu is real.

Poverty has become so watered down that the mention of a person not being able to reach food has less of a reaction than a phone dying.

Why is the distribution of wealth so plainly, bad? It’s easy to say that the problem is too big to conquer. But for that matter, the issue of women’s equality was too, but it’s changing isn’t it? The “Time’s Up” movement has proven the power of a united force. It comes down to the values we are raised on and the way education has structured our minds.

We are educated not to be citizens of this earth with a common goal to reach a good standard of living for every single one us. We are educated to go to college, get a job, and earn.

We musn’t rely on lessons in school, or the education we earned to shape the way we think of this world. Money and the way we manage it wasn’t god send. We have made a monster of an institution that is flattening billions of lives under it. Where’s the outrage?

When we brush our teeth with Colgate in the morning, let’s make up our own minds about the nature of giving. May we feel responsible as people of this world, to make it a place for everyone to enjoy.

If we don’t, no one will.


Works Cited

  1. Florida, Richard, et al. “America’s Wage Gap Just Keeps Getting Worse.” CityLab, 19 Aug. 2014,
  2. “11 Facts About Global Poverty.” | Volunteer for Social Change,
  3. Stern, Ken. “Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 26 Jan. 2018,
  4. “Capital – What Income around the World Looks Like.” BBC, BBC,

3 thoughts on “Individuality or No Empathy?

  1. Sinbald Cheng

    Great piece of writing Avantika, I agree, empathy is one of the hardest things for people to learn. The gap between the have and have nots is getting way too big.

  2. Emily Besley

    Great reminder for all of us, Avantika! We so often forget about the increasingly uneven distribution of wealth in the world.

  3. Ms Laws

    I loved the use of Colgate as a reminder for us all to think about the nature of giving and understanding the lives of others. Why not make this world a place for all to enjoy? Well written article Avantika.

Leave a Reply