Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

July 17, 2012

Early in his academic career, [Paul] Schervish was a committed Democratic Socialist. But around 1990, he began interviewing wealthy people and decided that his Marxist instinct to criticize the rich was misguided.

“I realized good and evil are equally distributed across the economic spectrum and not particular to the wealthy or the poor,” he says. “A lot of wealth holders were very sincerely concerned about others and were doing something about it.”

Graeme Wood


In place of wooden and corrugated metal shacks with trash fires out back, there are stuccoed buildings, nicely painted houses with landscaping, and public garbage collection. Where lots of folks in countries to the north do their shopping in poorly stocked stores run out of people’s houses, Costa Rica has American style grocery stores in every town where you can buy anything your heart desires: artesanal cheese, capers, fresh meat to name a few. Instead of the rolling hills full of cows, horses, and cowboys … in Nicaragua, we rolled by enormous plantations of pineapple, sugarcane, and papaya worked by big, industrial tractors, and headed directly for export. The country smells of prosperity and piña. … From La Fortuna, we made our way through resort land and around Lake Arenal to the little town of Nuevo Arenal … where there are no bars on the windows. It’s quite a striking thing to notice. After months of seeing ironwork in front of ever pane of glass, to be looking out of the hotel through a huge clear window is an interesting luxury. … Rather than wandering unmarked trails in a National Park, you have to pay someone $10 to go look at a waterfall. … The rainy season has arrived, so we are [adjusting to] wet weather. Sometimes we stop for shelter, and sometimes we ride on through. One day, after we thought we’d waited out the rain and headed on down the road, it started pouring, and looked like it would continue all night. As there were no hotels that we could see reachable that afternoon, we asked a logging/trucking company if we could sleep in their shed. The dude started to send us on our way to an hasped he knew, but then changed his mind, realizing we were much happier stopping right then for something dry and dusty than riding some more in the pouring rain in search of a pricey hotel room. He asked us all about our trip, brought us a tarp to lay on the floor, and explained that he used to drive trucks all over the province without knowing where he’d sleep, and he’d spent many a night sleeping in corrals with the animals. 

July 16, 2012

What does it mean to be the wealthiest country in Central America?

February 19, 2012

Thank you, steel manufacturing companies, and thank you, chemical processing companies, for giving us the time to read. —Hans Rosling

Totally good point about how the mechanisation of the rich world has allowed us to have so many professors, doctors, photographers, lawyers, and social media managers.


But I wonder: why is laundry so important?

There has to be a good reason; no one working with their hands for 70+ hours a week would choose to do an extra 10 hours of labour a week if they could avoid it. But I know from experience that, in my world, if you don’t do laundry for months at a time, nothing bad happens to you.

What did I do instead of laundry? I’ve taken a few options, some of which would have been available to poor humans now or in the past:

  1. wash clothing with the excess soapy water that falls off me in the shower (not available to them)
  2. turn clothing inside out and leave it outside (requires a lot of socks but before the 19th century no one was wearing socks anyway)

The second you would think poor people could do pretty easily. I used my porch, which got sun and wind and blew away, over time, most of the smells

So what’s the reason they couldn’t do that? I have a few theories.

  • They laboured with their bodies, getting much sweatier than I do at my computer.
  • Bugs and germs were more prevalent in their environment and got in their clothing if it weren’t soaped — or at least exposed to ammonia rising off the castle pissing grounds.
  • They got dirtier, muddier, muckier. But why would you need to deal with that?
  • Having clean clothes raised your appeal to the opposite sex, and social status went along with that as it goes along with attractiveness today. Clean isn’t necessary; it’s just sexy (on average).

Anyway, I wonder if it isn’t the other changes to the modern OECD environment (reduction in bugs and reduction in manual labour) that made for the progress. Nowadays I just use the washer when I’ve exercised or played in the mud.

If the wash was always just a way of keeping up with the Joneses, however, then we can’t congratulate the washing machine for saving us necessary labour — it just helps us live out our autocompetitive rank obsessions in other ways now the elbow’s been surpassed on that dimension.

January 26, 2012

“They don’t have money for a gym membership. They don’t have money for a 24-hour gym pass. This is a ghetto pass. They work out in the ‘hood. A lot of these guys are creative, because they’ve been incarcerated. They know how to work out with [whatever’s around]. And you know, these guys are just as toned, just as ripped. They look better than some of the cats at any fitness club around the world.”

December 17, 2011

Rednecks by Randy Newman

May 23, 2011

Grothendieck came to consider the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques at Bures a gilded cage that kept him away from real life.

The solidarity of outcasts had created in him a strong feeling of compassion. Grothendieck had always been uncomfortable frequenting the “better” places and felt more at ease among the poor, even the impoverished.

The son of a militant anarchist who had devoted his life to revolution, Alexander lived as an outcast throughout his entire childhood. His home was always wide open to “stray cats”.

Pierre Cartier, A Mad Day’s Work. as quoted in Wer ist Alexander Grothendieck?

(I liberally rearranged the text.)