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From Jenni: So often in our travels we encounter cultures and communities of very poor people living on the rim of subsistence. No shoes, no fresh water, no electricity and very little food, no medical attention. This is not to say that their cultures aren’t rich. _MJM5923-a8 Their traditions are important and beautiful, their way of life is something we can all learn from, their way of community sharing employs ingenious patterns of altruistic behavior that enables them to survive. They manage to bring an artfulness to their lives where every morsel of fabric, food, or found object is made into something astonishingly wonderful and useful.

And we hear this from many of the more prosperous residents of their countries: “But this is how they live! They are used to living like this!”

_MJM5943-a8 Sorry, but that is not exactly what we’re seeing. Much of the borderline existences are caused by oppression and encroachment into tribal areas and the loss of viable crop land and trade opportunities. It’s not the way of life that causes pain and shortens life spans, it’s lack of respect, a non-union amongst multiple cultures living under governments that do not adequately serve the entire population.

Truly, countries with huge populations of poor citizens and immigrants from other poor countries adding to the burden are simply overwhelmed with the prospect of solving sad and desperate situations. But, please, recognize that all people have a need for community based norms and mores and no matter how little they may have in those communities, when they are forced into living situations where those identities are taken away, they live in a situation not much better than unwanted pets in ASPCA cages.

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One Comment

  1. Jenni: What an insightful and touching commentary on cultures around the world. Too many times, we hold to an unrealistic, idealistic view of those less fortunate than ourselves, almost envying them in their picturesque poverty and carefree existence, unencumbered by all the materialism that crowds our lives.

    We don’t want to trade places with them, but we want to keep prevent them from being infected with the consumerism and luxury of our own lives. Odd, isn’t it? As if we can salve our own consciences by imposing our standards on them, saving them from themselves.

    Do we really believe that the essence of these poor people’s cultures is restricted to their poverty? Are their cultures so fragile that they can’t have running water without being “ruined”? Do they really need our protection? Or, as you suggest, is it not our respect they deserve?


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