Thursday, March 13, 2008

Third-World Existence--er, Subsistence

Not long ago I blogged about how all cultures have their good and bad aspects. I realize in retrospect that perhaps my analysis of the lifestyles of those in foreign countries was quite flippant, due to unavoidable ignorance of never having really been in those places. I said among other things that they eat a healthier diet than we do. Perhaps I should have said that considering our abundance, we eat more poorly than they do--in that we load up on fats and salts and additives unlike most of them, and don't avail ourselves of the variety of fruit and vegetables that practically surround us; but on the other hand, those in third-world countries likely have less opportunity to get a well-rounded meal. I picture them eating more basic foods, like rice and beans, but probably not having the abundance of the meats, fruits and vegetables that we take for granted--or perhaps even decent drinking water.
Last night I noticed that Katie had asked me to answer a questionnaire for one of her classes, regarding the poverty of third-world countries; it brought to my remembrance an article that a friend had posted on her refrigerator years ago, and I googled to find it. The site that repeated it acknowledged USA Today as their source, but I could not find any more specific information than that about it, perhaps because of the article's age. In all my searching, I found a plethora of articles about poverty, many arguing different ways of calculating it. It reminds me of the saying, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Jesus said that the poor we will always have with us, and I can see that it's true...even if our poor are rich, comparatively speaking. (Googling can give insight into how much the average input into the internet is babble about meaningless things, and even googling to find this article about poverty gave me lists of so much meaninglessness. I have to say some of my blogging may contribute its share of this as well. Not only that, on the USA Today website, I found an ad: "Find and Compare prices on international poverty at")
The article I found, regardless of whether it is exactly accurate or up-to-date, is such a clarifying piece that causes the reader to realize that even if by American standards we have any lack, we live in ridiculous abundance when compared with most of the people of the world. Talk about perspective! I'm not sure of the authorship since I couldn't find specifics, but I think the content is worth repeating here:

Daily Life in Developing Countries
The differences between day-to-day life in developing countries and the U.S. are huge and can be very difficult for us to comprehend. Virtually everything – what people own, what they do for a living, what they do in their leisure time, what they expect out of life for themselves and their children, the way they think about themselves and others, the things they take for granted, and more – differs dramatically.
According to the World Bank, nearly 1 billion people live below the international poverty line of $1.08 in consumption expenditures per person per day in 1993 purchasing power parity (PPP) adjusted U.S. dollars. That's about $1.53 per person per day in today's dollars. Another 1.5 billion are only a little better off, living on less than $2.15 per day in 1993 PPP adjusted U.S. dollars. These are commonly referred to as the "$1-a-day" and "$2-a-day" poverty lines.
So what would it be like living on $1.53 per day? An article from USA Today may be helpful in putting things into perspective.

Get rid of your car and all of your furniture and appliances except one chair and one table – no TV, stereo, refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, or even lamps.

Get rid of all your clothing except your oldest, most beaten-up shirt and pair of jeans. If you're the head of the family, you can keep one pair of shoes. If not, get rid of them too.

Remove the food from the kitchen. You can keep one small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, and a few potatoes, onions, cabbages or dry beans. You'll cook with firewood or dried cow dung.

Shut off the water, gas and electricity. While you're at it, dismantle the bathroom. Your new bathroom will be the local stream or pond. You'll get your drinking water from there too.

Move out of the house and into the toolshed. Your neighborhood will be a small village or shantytown.

Don't waste any time on newspapers, books and magazines. They'll be meaningless to you because you'll give up literacy.

Hold $10 in case of emergency – no bank account, pension plan or insurance policies.

Cultivate three acres as a tenant farmer. If the weather's good, you can expect $300 to $500 per year in cash crops. You'll pay one third of that to the landlord and another tenth to the moneylender.

No need to worry about keeping yourself busy in retirement, because you'll be lucky if you live past 55 or 60.

This was found at

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