Jenna slumped down onto the ice and put her head in her hands. “I can’t believe we did that,” she said. She looked at Septimus, a horrified expression in her eyes. “Sep, we’ve just killed someone.”
“Yes,” said Septimus simply.
“But that’s awful,” said Jenna. “I…I never thought I would…”
Septimus looked at Jenna, his green eyes serious. “It’s a luxury, Jen,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
Septimus stared at the scraped and bloody snow at his feet. It took him some moments to reply. “I mean…” he began slowly. “I mean that if you go through life and never face a situation where, in order for you to survive, someone else has to die, then you’re lucky. That’s what I mean.”
“That’s terrible, Sep.”
Septimus shrugged. “Sometimes that is how it is. I learned that in the Young Army. It’s either the chief cadet in the wolverine pit, or you.”
One of the biggest problems, says Shafir, is the message the poor receive from the system: You’re poor because you’re no good. “It’s very easy for the poor to swallow this idea,” he says. “The attitude that the poor are less successful is very common and very wrong. These days the survivor is the one with luck: Once in a blue moon someone pulls through. So the system isn’t ‘survival of the fittest’ at all.”
It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.
–Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo
From the epilogue:
The events recounted in the preceding pages are real, as are all the names. From the day in November 2007 that I walked into Annawadi and met Asha and Manju until March 2011, when I completed my reporting, I documented the experiences of residents with written notes, video recordings, audiotapes, and photographs. Several children of the slum, having mastered my Flip Video camera, also documented events recounted in this book….When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.
–The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich