Our self perception is skewed by our awareness, or lack thereof, of the condition of others. We may believe we are more fortunate than others in a lesser state, a third-world country for example, or on the flip side believe we are less fortunate than those in a better economic or social situation. While the perception is often accurate, it is nonetheless a predisposition caused by our education, which is a consequence of the “space” in which we live.
In my personal experience, living in Orlando (an already economically and socially divided city) has made me view my personal situation as better than a good percentage of people; even here in the United States. There are a good deal of poor neighborhoods and unkempt parts of town short distances from ritzy neighborhoods and expensive stores and schools. For example, I live in Baldwin Park, which is generally considered a more upscale neighborhood; Yet nearby there are disheveled, sometimes industrial buildings, lower class nightclubs, and shops that are falling apart or out of business. While I am in my Baldwin Park bubble, I have everything at my convenience, I have options when it comes to shopping and paths for biking among other things I take for granted. However, when I step out of the neighborhood and enter worse parts of town, that’s when I realize I took it all for granted. Where there is little, I think I have much. Where there is much, I think I have little. Thus the situation of others directly impacts where I see myself on a socioeconomic scale.
Recently, I took a trip to Spain and visited Colio while there. Many of you may have never even heard of Colio. That’s because it is a very small hick town (for lack of a better word) atop a mountain situated near Potes, Spain. The houses are made of very raw materials such as stones and weathered wood and in many places are collapsing. The air smells of horses and cobblestone lines the uneven, mountainous roads at the top, making it quite a task in and of itself to travel the village. The village has remained untouched in the last decade as told to me by my parents who had been there years before as well. The lack of progress in the village was astounding, yet there were still residents living blissfully atop their mountain with no attention to the progress made just down the mountain.
If anything, it wasn’t simply that I truly realized the extent of my fortune after my visit to Colio, it was the realization that many of the people in less fortunate “spaces” such as the residents of Colio don’t seem to be bothered by having less than much of the world unless it is brought to their attention. Spaces, especially those that are isolated like Colio, clearly then have a large impact on the perception of those that live within it. Those that don’t know won’t feel like they’ve lost out on anything while those that do know, such as myself, develop some sort of sense of pity. It’s easy to feel bad for those with less, even if those with less don’t realize the extent of what they don’t have.