Algeria: On the Rich, the Poor and the Middle Class

What is it like to be poor? And what is it like to be rich? Algerian Salim looks into the two situations and also reflects (Ar) on those who are hanging in between.

He introduces his topic saying:

لو كانت الوسطية امرأة لقتلتها، رغم حبي للتفاحة الحمراء . و لو كان الفقر رجلا لقتلته، رغم تقديري للرجولة . و لو كان البذخ شبحا لقتلته، مع أن الأشباح لا تقتل ..

If being in the middle were a woman, I would have killed her, despite my love for the red apple. And if poverty were a man, I would have killed him, despite my appreciation for manhood and if extravagance were a ghost, I would have killed it too, even though ghosts cannot be killed.

On poverty, Salim writes:

أن تَعيش فقيرا فهذا يعني أنك سَتشتهي وجبة كاملة، و ستَشتهي صديقا يملِك سيارة كي تجرب الجولة فيها، سَتَتَمنٌى لو أنٌك استكملت دراستك، و ستسهر الليل متخيلا نفسك تلبس لباسا عاديا و تملك هاتفا لا بأْس به، و أنك على علاقة مع فتاة متواضعة و أنت تمتلِك شيئا يضمن مواصلتها معك .. ستحس بالذل فور أن يمرض أحد من عائلتك و أنت تطلب ثمن علاجه من الذي يسوى و الذي لا يسوى .. أن تكون فقيرا هذا يعني أنك ستحقد على الأغنياء ..
To live poor means that you long for a full meal; that you hope you have a friend who owns a car so that you could go on a drive in it. You would wish that you had completed your studies and will spend nights imagining yourself dressed up like other people, or that you own a mobile phone, which you can show off. You would imagine that you were in a relationship with a modest woman, and that you owned something which guaranteed that she would continue being with you. You would also feel humiliated when a family member galls ill, and you go around asking those who are worth it and those who are not for the cost of his treatment. Being poor would mean that you would hate those who are rich.

And on being rich, Salim explains:

أن تَعيش غَنِيا، في الغالب سَتَدُوسُ على عشَرات من الناس في طريقك، و لن تسعد بمال تحرسه ليلا و نهارا من الزوال، لن تهنأ بالنوم، ستعاني من ارتفاع نسبة الكولسترول و لن تأكل اللحم، ستصاب بداء السكري و لن تأكل الحلويات، ستصاب بالضغط الدموي المضطرب و لن تأكل إلا أكلا بلا طعم، سيموت قلبك و لن يضعف إلا أمام الفائدة، سترى الكل حولك يتأهبون لاستغلالك، لن تتمكن من حب أي فتاة لأن قلبك يتبع الفائدة و لأنك أصبحت تخاف من أن تكون محل استغلال .. أن تكون غنيا هذا يعني أنك ستحقد على الفقراء ..
To be rich, invariably means that you would have stepped on tens of people in your path and that you would not be happy with that money you guard day and night and worry that it would disappear. You would not enjoy your sleep and would suffer from a high level of cholesterol, which will prevent you from eating red meat. You would be diabetic, and you would not be able to eat sweets. You would have hypertension and would not be able to eat anything other than tasteless food. Your heart would die and would only weaken in front of profit. You would see all those around you as people getting ready to use you. You would not be able to love any woman because your heart would follow profit only or because you would be afraid of being used. Being rich would mean that you would hate those who are poor.

And on those who live in between, Salim offers:

أما أن تعيش في وسطية، هذا يعني أنك سَتُحِب و ستعتقد أنك تملك ما سيضمن لَكَ حبيبتك، أن تأكل كالأغنياء يوما و كالفقراء يوما، ستقود أنت السيارة و لن تحس بطعم الجولة فيها، ستملك الهاتف الرائع و ستبيعه فور احتياجك، ستتمكن من علاج أبيك إذا أصابه المرض في مستشفى حكومي، لكنك سَتُحِس بالذٌل إن استعصى المرض، و في النهاية ستفقد حبيبتك لأن اعتقادك لم يكن في محله، ستتذوق من كل شيئ قليلا، الوسطية هي تذوق، ستعيش كل لحظة بصفة و لن ترسو على بر .. و حينها ستحقد على الغني و على الفقير و ستلعن الوسطية ..
To live in the middle means that you would fall in love, and that you would believe that you have what ut takes to guarantee you your beloved. You would eat like the rich one day and the poor the next. You would drive your own car but not enjoy the journey. You would own that incredible mobile phone and would sell it as soon as you needed any money. You would be able to afford to have your father treated in a government hospital when he falls ill, and you would feel humiliated if it was a serious illness. At the end, you would lose your lover because your expectations were not in their place. You would taste a little of everything. Being middle class means tasting a bit of everything. You will live each moment in a different way and will never be content. It is then that you would hate the rich and the poor and curse being middle class.

As for him, Salim admits:

لن أرتاح سواء كنت غنيا أم فقيرا أم “وسطيا” .. سأرتاح فقط عندما أعيش كما أريد .. في عالم لا يحوي طبقات لا يرتاح أحد فيها .
I will not be content whether I am rich, poor or middle class. I would only be happy when I live how I want, in a world without a class system, where no one is ever content.

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