at the core of our work, my firm tries to facilitate better/more informed/longer-term-focused decision-making about environmental public policies. it is often quite interesting to hear the cost-benefit analyses that the various stakeholders come up with when rationalizing their preferred alternative. it’s ok to pump all of the water out of the river now, otherwise we won’t have any food next summer. despite the fact that we go through very careful, articulated, researched decision-making processes, sometimes the best decision just can’t get enough momentum. because people have a really hard time thinking about anything but today. right now.
this Seed Magazine article about decision-making is very interesting, and does a good job of relating the decisions we often attribute to the “state of being poor” to those most of the rest of us make every day.
Sitting on the couch and watching TV does not seem very attractive when thinking about tomorrow, but in the moment it is a particularly attractive option. This means that even if individuals would like to behave as the traditional economics view would suggest, they find it difficult to do so. The patient me looking into the future wishes I would do one thing — my taxes this weekend — while the deciding me in the present does another thing — watches TV.
i myself, despite all these years of fostering careful decision-making in the workplace, have a hard time adhering to what i know are the best practices for myself in my personal life. this is something i’ve been trying to work on.
if you’re poor, it all gets even harder. living hand-to-mouth makes decision-making all the more urgent. every decision. life-threatening decisions. which is why the opening paragraph of this article is so very important to consider:
All too often, the choices of the poor are viewed as a result of either some intrinsic failing (“they’re just very myopic people”) or some deep psychological feature of poverty (“they’re desperate”). Behavioral economics — the integration of psychological insights into economic analysis — offers a third interpretation: All of us face difficulties in making the right choices; the poor are just asked to do it more often and in tougher circumstances.
living in a relatively poor urban neighborhood (globally speaking), i am also highly-aware of and interested in what drives some of the “bad” decisions i see being made in my neighborhood every day. like why people keep dumping what appears to be regular household trash on the corner, right under the “no dumping sign”. in their own neighborhood. or why one chooses to steal from their neighbors. or sell crack. or carry a gun. what previous decisions, by whom, and under what circumstances, led to these?
this is where i find my compassion around things that happen to me that are unsavory, like getting my car busted into or having to witness certain behaviors on the streets around my home, and where i get extremely irritated at those who think the poor deserve what they have, that they are poor through some fault of their own, that if they just worked harder and were “better people”, they wouldn’t be poor. everyone makes their own choices, sure, but assuming that everyone had the opportunity to make the same choices as you is where the fault lies. and on top of that, as this article discusses, even the privileged make bad decisions, so why do so many expect the poor to be any different than the rest of us, and hold them to such different standards? you often hear about the rash decisions that get made in the face of unforeseen circumstances, or unexpected situations, or dire emergencies. often, being poor means that you face those things almost every day.Filed in culture and random linkage | Tagged with poverty | Comment (1)
The Places We Live features panoramic photos of slums, narrated by the people who live there (through translators). Really really engrossing. To access the stories in the restricting Flash interface, skip the intro, click on a city, and then on one of the households in the upper left corner.
all the press about Slumdog Millionaire has created a lot of awareness about the slums abroad, which is great, but what about poverty here in america? last night, jay and i watched “Brother’s Keeper“, a documentary about the murder trial of a poor illiterate farmer from upstate NY. it was one of the most heartbreaking, and heartwarming, things i’ve seen in a really long time. i literally ACHED watching this film. related to the website about slums because these 3 farming brothers lived, in the 1990s, without water or heat in a shack on their delapidated family farm, all sleeping in one bed, and when the murder trial hit the news, no one could believe that they lived that way, right here in America. the footage of the news coverage of the way these men lived is downright degrading, painting a sort of “Deliverance” picture of the brothers and their community, not to mention the treatment by the D.A., who basically accused them of being monsters and deviants. there are slums in america too; maybe not as sprawling or populated as Mumbai or Jakarta, but there are places in this country where people live their whole lives without ever having enough to eat, or sleep 3 to a bed, or only own one pair of filthy pants. “hillbillies”, sometimes they’re called, but as this movie shows, in modern america, outside of the visibly homeless in our streets, the impoverished are usually ignored and marginalized to the point that most people don’t even believe they exist.
i also recently watched Reel Paradise, about an american family that moves to poverty-stricken Fiji and opens up a free movie theatre. the movie gets a little tedious, but i think portrays the lessons of being the “rich white people” in a impoverished community, as well as reflections on what it means to be rich or poor in this world.
all of these things make me both incredibly grateful for all that i have, but also incredibly sad that there are so many suffering, and the numbers just keep growing every day, usually due to the rich trying to get richer.
however, unlike in Slumdog, where poverty is portrayed as obviously oppressive, in both Brother’s Keeper and Reel Paradise, there is also a questioning, an implication, that maybe the simpler life isn’t so bad, and maybe being poor shouldn’t be equated with being unhappy.Filed in culture and random linkage, most linked/commented on, tv, books and movies | Tagged with poverty | Comments (11)
the new testament presented in glossy magazine format with graphic and touching photos and other text to “illuminate” the teachings of the bible and relate them to today’s world.
see a free 19-page excerpt here (PDF), in which poverty and hunger are addressed via Luke.
i know a few people for whom this would be a great gift.
~viaFiled in philosophical ramblings, tv, books and movies | Tagged with poverty | Comment (0)
Filed in things you can do | Tagged with facebook, poverty | Comment (0)
Nearly 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day—yet the world has never been so prosperous. The world has enough money, resources and technology to end poverty.
Every year, 121 million children in third world countries do not receive the education they need to escape poverty. In an effort to increase awareness of this fact, a school will be built for children in poverty when this group reaches 1.21 million members.
When the number is reached, members of this group will be able to vote to determine where the school will be built between Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, China or Kenya.
The fund will cover the entire cost of building the school and all of the infrastructures needed to run the school. The contribution will be made in this group’s name (Ultimate Social Experiment) through Free the Children (see Facebook page for more info).
Facebook is being used as a platform to increase awareness of poverty. Sure, the school could simply be financed but the belief is that a greater long-term impact can be made if others can take part at the same time. Who knows? Maybe one or two members in the group will contribute to social causes in the future after learning how easy it is to get involved.
There are over 132 million facebook users, meaning less than 1% need to join this group for a school to be built (currently 716,000 members)
To take part all you have to do is:
2 Click on “Invite People to Join” from the menu on the right.
3 Select all your friends (one more individual could increase awareness by hundreds or thousands of people).
4 Click on “Send invitation.”
It’s that simple.
Two runs of a futuristic simulation involving introductory psychology students were held on successive nights. On one night, “Earth” was populated entirely by right-wing authoritarian followers; on the second night, a small number of dominating authoritarians were included among a second group of authoritarian followers. With a few notable exceptions (e.g., nuclear war did not break out), the future evolved as anticipated on the two evenings. In general, authoritarians produced dismal futures, beset by unemployment, famine, and disease.
uh…………..whoah. i mean, not unexpected in terms of how our global leaders act, but that average citizens would play out these roles in the same way in a simulation is sort of mind blowing.
OK, what’s this book about? It’s about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.
“Well,” you might be thinking, “I don’t believe any of this is true.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “What else is new? I’ve believed this for years.” Why should a conservative, moderate, or liberal bother with this book? Why should any Republican, Independent, or Democrat click the “Introduction” link on this page?
key themes: top-down mentality, leadership, authoritarian personalities, equality, social domination and submission, conservatism, misanthropy, ethnocentricity, xenophobia, cycles of global war and poverty, game theoryFiled in culture and random linkage, politics and news, tv, books and movies | Tagged with poverty | Comment (0)
“The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…
–Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence, April 4, 1967
i encourage you to listen to the speech while reading along on that link. while it may seem tedious to listen to a speech about something in the past, if as you read/listen to the whole speech you replace word “Vietnam” with “Iraq” and/or “Afghanistan”, it’s more than a little relevant, and incredibly sad that this history is being repeated again.
if you want to skip over the part focused on vietnam, scroll down to the last 1/3 of the speech below the photo for his inspirational message on peace and social values, as related to the cost of war:
Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news | Tagged with MLK, poverty | Comments (2)
…A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”
Buy Some Stuff, Enslave Somebody: this AlterNet article is a discussion of the book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy on modern slave labor in america and elsewhere.
The book focuses on fruit pickers in South Florida; Indian welders in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Asian garment workers and sex slaves in the tiny U.S. commonwealth of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. Employing a tone that’s both journalistic and crusading — heavy on facts and firsthand accounts but clear in its sense of moral indignation — Bowe aims to make explicit the connection between the rise of the global market — with its promises of cheap goods, high employment, and peace — and the growing number of people throughout the world living in poverty, doomed to spend their lives providing goods and services for people born into wealthier circumstances.
i know a lot of people who would use the incidents documented here as examples of why illegal immigrants should all be deported, but in my view, it’s not the illegals who should be punished, it’s the employers, and generally, they get a fine or two and are off the hook until the next time they get caught. punish the employers, not the workers.
the book and film Fast Food Nation also dealt with the abuse of illegals in dangerous working conditions and is highly recommended.Filed in things you can do, tv, books and movies | Tagged with consumerism, economics, poverty | Comment (1)
if hugo chavez were running for president, i would probably vote for him.
Chavez complained about the new fad of giving the plastic surgery operation at 15 — when Latin Americans celebrate a girl’s coming-of-age — during a diatribe against what he says are Western-imposed consumerist icons such as Barbie dolls.
people claim he’s corrupt – but compared to GW, he’s practically a saint. he’s not afraid to try out unique strategies for relieving social problems, and according to wikipedia, despite the alleged corruption, his policies have resulted in discernable improvements at all levels of society:
The “Bolivarian Missions” have entailed the launching of government anti-poverty initiatives, the construction of thousands of free medical clinics for the poor, the institution of educational campaigns that have reportedly made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate, and the enactment of food and housing subsidies. The infant mortality rate fell by 18.2% between 1998 and 2006. The government earmarked 44.6% of the 2007 budget for social investment, with 1999-2007 averaging 12.8% of GDP.
see also: democratic socialism
or, see conservapedia’s chavez entry for a, uh….different, point of view.
it’s one of those cases where we are told some other leader is evil/corrupt because they don’t play the games the US wants them to play in the way the US wants them to (like OPEC and World Bank), when in reality they are no more evil/corrupt than any of our own politicians. just because someone hates the US does not mean they are corrupt (or any more corrupt than our own), and particularly if a leader is socialist/communist, they are automatically “evil” even if they are doing good works because the US still believes democracy is the greatest thing ever, despite any evidence to the contrary.
recall that chavez won the 2006 Time Magazine “person of the year” online reader poll, and Time opted to instead make the web 2.0 users the “person of the year”[/url] (catering to good ol’ american egotism and sense of self-importance), presumably because putting chavez in a positive light would mean too much backlash for Time Warner corp. that chain of events – users selecting a controversial winner –>Time selecting the users (without mentioning who they chose) – still makes my head spin.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with chavez, media, poverty | Comment (0)
instead of going to burning man, my friend eric, went to help set up a network in a hospital in the Congo as part of the www.healafrica.org project, and also to do work on a foundation that another of my friends, devon, helped to set up: www.gomastudentfund.org, which works to provide education for Congolese children who have been victims of war, genocide, poverty and AIDS.
a film, LUMO, which follows the story of a few of the civil war’s rape victims who are at the hospital for a series of surgeries and counseling is showing on PBS next Tuesday (9/18) at 10pm. preview/check local listings.Filed in friends, things you can do | Tagged with poverty | Comment (1)