Sophie Paulette Jupillat, 22, from Orlando, USA is a writer and musician who has been featured with us at ASLI from our first issue ‘The celebration of women’ (You can find links to her previous submissions and interviews at the end of this article).
In this issue Sophie decided to use creative writing to produce a piece in the style of a theater, which follows a conversation between two characters about their quality of life, and shines a light on how overlooked poverty can be in developed areas of the world, as well as the many underdeveloped ones we hear of.
Currently, Sophie is working on fiction with supernatural elements, along with prose poetry, poetry about nature and some play writing about social issues. At present she is working on two collections of fiction, her goal being to make them as best as they can be; with as much detail and accuracy as possible along with making sure each is in a style which supports its content. Sophie then hopes to publish her works, as she has already been published in online magazines, she now aims to be published in a more ‘traditional’ sense.
We at ASLI are very excited and grateful to be following Sophie’s journey and can’t wait to see more of her work in the future.
Here is our interview with Sophie:
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject for this campaign “Capitalism, poverty and war”?
The heated debates in American politics, the slew of memes and debates on social media about minimum wage, the situation in the Middle East, and the presence of more and more homeless people in the city I live in.
In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Why (not)?
The US is one of the most, if not the most capitalist country in today’s world. At first glance, the US seems to have everything one could want: freedom of everything and peace, and access to services third world country don’t have, such as healthcare and education. But behind the bright, tempting image is an unpleasant reality: the country is built on consumerism, where all tactics, ethical or not, are used to make money. The goal isn’t to sell things that people need and will last for a long time; it is to make more money, against the common peoples’ health, needs, and interests. If that weren’t enough, everything is becoming insanely expensive. As a recent college graduate, I am struggling hard to survive in an economy that doesn’t function well because it is bogged down by bureaucracy. Getting healthcare, and being able to afford the cost of living is beyond the wages I can get. Many students are in the same boat, and worse. At the same time, I’m noticing more and more, the “1%” are influencing the system in their favour, stomping on the needs of the majority—those who aren’t in the 1%. People struggle every day due to the ramifications of rampant capitalism, whether they be material or otherwise.
What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?
Capitalism, as it operates now in the US, doesn’t help those born at a disadvantage. Capitalism is built on the basis of who has more money. It isn’t about rewarding the “self -made man” like it used to be. Now, everyone without a fortune struggles to make it, even those who have tried to go above and beyond. It’s exceedingly hard to make it in a nation where at every turn people are foiled by a lack of money.
If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete? For example, to people with physical or mental disabilities?
Capitalism the way it is now doesn’t even reward ability. Advertisements try to sell the public that shtick, but it isn’t true. For example, companies aren’t trying to compete with each other. Their services are much the same, they just advertise the way they do things differently. But prices remain the same: absurdly high, with the quality being lacklustre. As for capitalism regarding individual people, I don’t think they are able to do much. Anybody who is different, who is outside the traditional white male mold, is looked down upon and not often encouraged. People at a disadvantage may be able to compete among themselves, but they can’t compete with the average person. The system doesn’t allow for fragile people.
What are your views or suggestions on an alternative economic system?
I think a more moderate capitalism might be better, mixed with socialism. Most Americans shudder at the notion of socialism because it has failed miserably in the past. But true socialism, as it’s meant to be, is supposed to insure that everybody has basic rights and. It is built on community. I believe a good mix of capitalism, which is based on individualism and one’s own efforts, and socialism, with the properties I described above, would offer a good balance.
Has capitalism affected you in any way in your life?
In many ways. Since I’ve been living on my own, and especially since I graduated college, I’ve noticed how difficult it is to be able to live. Being able to find a job with a bachelor’s degree should be easy—but it’s not. Oftentimes, graduates are overqualified for most of the jobs that are available! In addition, the jobs that actually are available don’t pay enough to survive and/or the work environment is unsavory. It is soulless work that makes the higher-ups rich and supposedly, a small part of the population “happy.” I am unable to afford healthcare because the insurance is too expensive. Healthcare is a universal right. People shouldn’t have to go without it because of insurance costs. I’ve been wrung dry by student loans, and it’s expected that I begin paying them back right away. I cannot, because being able to afford rent is a priority. Education is much too expensive for what it is. Some people say that if education is that expensive, then go to a cheap college or don’t go to school. But good jobs, where workers can actually survive on what they are paid, are only available to people with, at minimum, college degrees. So people are caught in this cycle of doing one thing to better themselves, while being bankrupted at the same time. This is unnatural.
In your opinion – who benefits from poverty, and how?
Richer people benefit from those in poverty. Not all who are living in luxury, necessarily, but those who own major companies in the US, or some of those who are in the government. What I mean by “the government” is the mishmash of people who are in charge, who dumb down everything in America. I think they benefit from poverty because people in poverty don’t think about the bigger picture of things. They are concerned with surviving day to day. People in poverty fall through the cracks of society and can’t do much against an unjust system. The more the higher-ups want to exert control over everything, to make money in any way they can even if hurts everybody else, then the more they will render people poor, so there won’t be an uprising.
How do images/videos/news reports of people in poverty influence society in different countries? What is your country like?
I believe homeless people are portrayed simultaneously as shameful and pathetic—which is a sure way to garner attention for the issue, but not to solve it. The way the news media portray homeless people in the US or France (two countries I follow closely) is interesting because homeless people are obviously a problem, a nuisance. People are supposed to feel sad if they are empathetic, or angry because “they are not trying hard enough.” But the media doesn’t give the complex reasons why homelessness exists, or the stories behind homeless people. The media’s audience is left to assume homeless people are junkies or criminals, or poor people who didn’t try hard enough, ended up in the street, and are now inconveniencing everybody else. Some people go as far as saying that homeless people beg when in reality they are well off. Some such cases happen, but they are rare. It is by no means a high percentage unlike what some people would think. But homeless people are so much more than a group of pathetic people. Many of them are people like you and me—people who were caught in a downward slope and couldn’t get back up. With today’s economy being the way it is, those of us not in the 1% are all a step away from homelessness.
To what extent does stigma contribute to the experience of living in poverty in your country, and in your opinion what could be done to address this?
Stigma contributes to the fact that little is done to really help homeless people. If the media stopped simplifying things so much, and instead made and propagated documentaries illustrating the realities of homelessness in the US, then people would empathize much more and do things to help. If the media or local communities could band together to inform people and show them how to help, not necessarily by giving money, then I think the homeless would be better off.
What in your opinion works in reducing the negative impact of growing up in poverty on a child’s life chances?
If a child is encouraged to become more, to strive harder in order to get out of poverty, then his/her life chances will be better. Also, if the child’s parents aren’t so poor that they cannot send the child to school, or to cultural programs that open the child’s eyes to the world, then there will be less chance he/she will fall into the same negative cycle.
10. Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. How does this make you feel and is this something you think about and actively try and change, and if so how?
Those statistics make me feel horrible to be living so well off in the United States. My biological parents were barrio people in Venezuela, and I never got a chance to meet them because they died in a mudslide, trapped in their ramshackle house. I am thankful to be living in a country like the US, where I know I have much more of a chance at life than I would have had in Venezuela. Yet the abundance of consumerism, the sheer amount of money that is spent on flashy advertisements alone, sickens me. The amount of waste in the US, too, particularly of food and water, makes me keenly aware of how vast the contrast is between the means available to even the least wealthy living here vs. what is available to people living in less developed countries. Whenever I see a homeless person, it tugs at my heart because they are surrounded by the suffocating opulence around them, yet they can’t access it. I try to fight against this inequality by researching as much as I can about the subject, and circumventing the lies of the media. I also try to give what I can to homeless people when I meet them. And this is the reason why I’m involved with ASLI: so I can educate people about the issue. Knowledge is power.
Do you think war is ever necessary and why?
I believe war should be the last recourse for any conflict. War is a bloody, nasty, traumatizing thing, on an individual and a national scale. It should be waged only when there is a true threat to a country’s freedom. War should never be about disagreements on political issues, or natural resources, or anything like that.
Who profits and gains in general from war, in your opinion?
I believe tyrannies, whether obvious ones or ones cloaked in “democracy, ” profit from war, because so many things shift in a society during a war. War is a huge money-maker, especially when wars are waged for natural resources like oil. Governments, corporations, some wealthy, powerful people and institutions stand to profit a lot from that.
In your opinion what motivates war? Is it capitalism, patriarchy, the standing of a country or revenge etc?
I believe war can be caused by a mix of these: capitalism for sure, the standing of a country, and revenge. The motivations in a war can be blurred quickly. I believe wars in the past, for the most part, have been about protecting and defending countries in genuine distress. Wars in general now are used by powerful nations to meddle in less powerful nations’ affairs, because they disagree about whatever issue, or to gain resources. It’s mostly about money.
Do you think enough is done by the global community to help the people affected by the ongoing occupations and wars globally? As well as the aftermath; leaving people with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, homeless, and often completely destabilised in general.
A resounding no! People are expected to pick themselves back up and reconstruct. The soldiers in a war, as well as the citizens caught in a war, aren’t helped very much at all. The soldiers come home with countless mental disorders because of the horrible psychological toll of war, and they are shunned, not treated well and become dysfunctional—or worse, they become homeless —because they weren’t treated well. A lot of homeless people are veterans! As for citizens affected by a war, in Middle Eastern countries notably, nobody truly bothers to help them, with their state of mind or with physically rebuilding the country. But that is because they are considered “the terrorists,” “the bad guys, ” so they “deserve” their treatment.
How do you feel about the media’s use of propaganda when discussing war and the rhetoric of the “good guys and bad guys” being fed to the masses?
I think it is worsening a problem that is already prominent. People already tend to polarize and draw thick borders between nations based on any perceived difference. The media feeds into that frenzy. making things worse. Developed countries, perhaps especially the US, as a Western culture, tend to demonize the “Other,” and minimize their suffering that results when we lash out at them. There are some genuine bad guys, in both Eastern and Western cultures, but our media tends to minimize the coverage on bad guys in its own culture. It’s a pride thing. Then, when things go wrong in a society, it’s easy to blame the Other, it’s easier to not assume responsibility. The media is feeding ignorance to the masses as well, because stereotyping a whole culture based on a few bad seeds is ridiculous. But so many people don’t know any better, and so they swallow the bullshit that is being fed to them. It is a good way to make the people ok with whatever conflict is going on.
Lastly we would like to know of your own experiences with either war or poverty or both. Have you or anyone in your family been affected by them and how are you now or are you still affected?
I was born in poverty in Venezuela, and I never got a chance to meet my biological parents. I was born prematurely, with a terrible blood infection, and while I was in the hospital, my biological parents died in that mudslide. I was then adopted by French parents, and brought to the US when I was two years old. I know how fortunate I am to be where I am today. And it makes me think about other orphans out there, in Venezuela or anywhere else in the world, who could do great things, if only they were given a chance. But they are foiled by mindless politics, greed, and a vicious cycle that drags them deeper into the dregs of society. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right. People everywhere should be free, happy, and provided with all the things they need to survive, and they should be able to give back to a society that gives to them. The fact that this isn’t happening yet is mind-boggling. I feel my heritage very keenly and I want to raise awareness about poverty and war, which go hand in hand. I want people one day to be themselves, the best they can be, regardless of skin color, age, sex, race, religion. We as a society need to be challenged, be aware, and truly do something.
Links to Sophie’s previous submissions can be found at:
Find more about Sophie by following these links: