21 July 2007

rich christians excerpt

I promised you an excerpt from “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”. This section helped me to visualize the reality of real poverty. Strange how it took this book to help me experience what the people we work with in the squatter camps everyday really live with.

This exercise is hauntingly accurate:

To help us imagine what poverty means, a prominent economist itemized the “luxuries” we would have to abandon if we were to adopt the lifestyle of our 1.2 billion neighbors who live in desperate poverty:
We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television set, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his “wardrobe” his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.

We move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out so we move to the cupboards...The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar, and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be hastily rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.

Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the toolshed...

Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books - not that they are missed since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shanty town, we will allow one radio...

Now government services must go. No more postman, no more firemen. There is a school but it is three miles away and it consists of two classrooms...There are, of course, no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is 10 miles away and is tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided that the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely...

Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of $5.00. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise $3.94, which he mistakenly thought he needed to recieve admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.

Perspective gained.

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