Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Don't Understand Poverty

I am generalizing based on the Americans that I know, but I don't understand poverty either. I was laying on the couch as one of my parents read my blog and asked what I meant by an enclosed house (#74).  I mean the houses we live in are so luxurious in this country. When we lived in Oklahoma we had a chicken coop in the back yard for a couple of years. It had standard wood slats wall construction and a corrugated sheet metal roof. That is exactly the type of house that probably a billion or more people live in throughout the world. No one in the undeveloped world drives down to Lowe's or Home Depot to pick up sheet rock or more insulation. This picture of a slum in Jakarta, Indonesia is an extreme example, but it's real. People live there. The Wikipedia page for Poverty is a good one. Lots of pictures and numbers.

Poverty is a strange phenomenon. The worse it gets the more irrational people become. Few suicide bombers come from middle class families. What does make a difference in the war on poverty? Education seems to be the one thing that makes the biggest difference. Of course, it takes two or three decades for an education system to really make a dent.

An education teaches people to wash their hands to avoid getting sick. An education teaches people how to read so they can be informed about whatever is relevant to them. An education opens up economic opportunities that shut the door on poverty. A farmer that learns about crop rotation, irrigation, and erosion stands to be more productive and successful than one that does not have an education about such things. A business person that understands math well enough to manage a loan and balance the sales and expenses will be able to measure profit and thus likely have more success. People are more likely to invest in a person with more education and jump start one little part of that economy.

I hope that my international travels can help convey an idea of what these other countries are like. I hope that in some way I can help improve communication across international boarders and provide some education to create wealth for others. I have so much. I am so blessed. I hope that I don't forget that or take that for granted.

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