If you have ever seen “The Greyhound Diaries” by Doug Levitt, which comes highly recommended, you will notice something very interesting. It is the disparity between what statistics will tell you, and what those people behind statistics will show you. The Greyhound Diaries is all about the chronicling of the people in America who technically fall into the poverty category. The statistics will show you all the numbers involved, but Doug Levitt will show you the human faces that make those statistics.
When you see the difference between the numbers and the human condition those numbers represent, you will see the importance of it all. Roughly 50 million Americans qualify as living in poverty, but what does that really mean? Unless you are living in poverty yourself or have daily access to those who are, all you know is what the numbers tell you. Which isn’t much when you consider what poverty does to people. Without the money that others have who are not living under the poverty line have, they do not have access to adequate healthcare. Or the types transportation that make getting to and from work easy. Or the modern technology that so many of us take for granted.
Living under the poverty line puts you in somewhat of a different world than others, even though we all share the same country. A country that the rest of world sees as modern and privileged, is a country that Doug Levitt shows as socio-economically diverse. Diverse to the degree that many of us right here in America do not want to accept. We choose to look the other way, and that’s a shame. To quote John Mellencamp, “We shame ourselves to watch people like this live”.Watch The Greyhound Diaries though and you will see a certain kind of passion in the people Doug showcases. That passion for surviving is borne out of necessity, and it creates a life that is real. You will see no posturing, grandstanding or petty conversations on a Greyhound bus. You don’t have the time to waste of things like that when all your time is taken in just getting by.
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Life begins at forty. Thor Halvorssen is 39 years old. This is the age where you look down from your castle and appreciate how far you have come. He has a successful foundation. The Human Rights Foundation is based in NewYork. He is half Norwegian and Venezuelan in decent. An interview with him is a pleasant experience. His English is accentless.
Thor Halvorssen has a rich family heritage reads like a novel. His mother is a direct descendant of the first President of Venezuela. His grandfather is a warrior and a man of great valor. His career path was well beaten even before he got here. His parent held the topic closely at heart. Otherwise, they would never have taken up those positions.
Spending time with him reveal, Thor did not learn human rights from the classroom. It is clear; it is a topic dear to him. He is responsible for bringing to light corruption in the government. He had to become a drug czar. The Venezuelan government has a no mercy rule on snitches. His father bore the brunt of retaliation. His cousin has suffered the same fate. He is languishing in a Venezuelan prison.
Many are the activists who would be bitter. Thor Halvorssen has a reason. However, his outlook on life is the exact opposite. Thor loves people too much to let a bitterness creep in. A self-proclaimed troublemaker and noisemaker, he has a special place in his heart for dissidents and defectors.
A notable one in our time is Garry Kasparov and Vaclav Havel. Before his death five years ago, Vaclav was chairman at HRF. Kasparov has been beaten up and humiliated by the Russian policeman couple of times. During a Pussy Riot, police beat him senseless. He received a two-year sentence.
The founder of the Human Rights Foundation is no stranger to beatings. He was seriously beaten in Vietnam in an attempt to record an interview with Thich Quang. Thich Quang is a Buddhist monk, currently under house arrest. When authorities realized it, he and his cameraman were arrested and beaten up. Only a lie could get him out of the predicament.
Thor Halvorssen is a hero. Such visits have led to the release of political prisoners. He has been able to attract funding from philanthropists. This is surely a feat to be lauded and emulated.
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