B&D on Poverty and Food

April 27, 2011

It is an excellent piece, excerpt:

The poor often resist the wonderful plans we think up for them because they do not share our faith that those plans work, or work as well as we claim. We shouldn’t forget, too, that other things may be more important in their lives than food. Poor people in the developing world spend large amounts on weddings, dowries, and christenings. Part of the reason is probably that they don’t want to lose face, when the social custom is to spend a lot on those occasions. In South Africa, poor families often spend so lavishly on funerals that they skimp on food for months afterward.

And don’t underestimate the power of factors like boredom. Life can be quite dull in a village…

We often see the world of the poor as a land of missed opportunities and wonder why they don’t invest in what would really make their lives better. But the poor may well be more skeptical about supposed opportunities and the possibility of any radical change in their lives. They often behave as if they think that any change that is significant enough to be worth sacrificing for will simply take too long. This could explain why they focus on the here and now, on living their lives as pleasantly as possible and celebrating when occasion demands it.

I would like to add that the change that is required is often met with resistance in any human endeavor even with tested foreseeable positive results. It is inherent in all of us to look for and favor actions with immediate feedback; this is not a case only for the poor.


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  1. Anonymous

    Coming from a "poor" region…I must say I appreciate the mentality of living for now, appreciating the present as opposed to grinding my teeth worrying about pension or what will happen if a lover ever leaves me, or wrinkles or even death itself.

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