NEW YORK CITY – While most celebrities parade around in haute couture and embody walking billboards for high-end brands, Ben Affleck, Sophia Bush, Josh Groban and Debi Mazar are among the select few of their compatriots to rally behind The Global Poverty Project’s annual Live Below the Line campaign.
Live Below the Line challenges participants to live below the global poverty line of $1.50 per day for a total of five days. By allowing people to directly experience the difficulties of living in poverty, the campaign aims to eradicate apathy toward global poverty and broaden the average American’s worldview. Word of mouth has expanded the popularity of the revolutionary campaign, which averaged 15,000 participants in 2012 and 20,000 participants in 2013.
Official rules limit one to spending $7.50 or less on food over the course of a week. Participants must also take into account the estimated cost of food purchased already available and/or purchased beforehand, although backyard produce and tap water are both considered free-for-alls.
While many applauded Affleck for his effort to raise awareness on world hunger, others criticized him for indulging himself in the usual blasé form of Hollywood pseudo-activism—a pitch for publicity, at most. After all, like most celebrities, Affleck lives in luxury year round—so what real difference does it make if he takes five days off to eat like a poor person?
Affleck directly addressed his critics through an article in the Huffington Post, stating that playing the role of a globally responsible citizen does not necessarily entail assuming guilt for one’s material assets. Rather, the focus should be shifted to doing whatever one can to help—even if it is as small and seemingly insignificant as promoting awareness of global issues. In an increasingly interconnected world, it is important that Americans understand that actions speak louder than words.
By introducing this ideal of nobless oblige, Affleck highlights America’s moral obligation to fight global poverty.
– Melrose Huang