(Picture of Nyima with her mother Abee)
Life for most appears to be one big “worry”. It is no wonder that for many, life feels like a treadmill that continues to accelerate as one runs to keep up.
In Canada, like most western countries, there appear many concerns, including the lack of good jobs, especially for the young, affordable housing, the constant fear of interest rates increasing and the eventual decline in property values.
According to statistics, personal debt is on an ever increasing spiral, especially credit card debt, which long ago passed the danger zone.
Those of retirement age are accruing more debt than anyone else, as many still have mortgages and special needs that come with age.
Slick and pervasive marketing strategies entice people to continue to buy more “things” with easy to access credit.
There are other issues of concern, which are too numerous to mention in such a short column.
Today there are a litany of ailments afflicting society including declining and ever more costly education and healthcare and democracy constantly under duress by power hungry politicians.
What to do? These afflictions appear to be spreading like computer viruses affecting even those who once considered themselves middle class.
When you have the opportunity to live and work in one of the world’s poorest countries these “worries” appear superficial with less meaning. Here people’s worries are much more real and stark, impacting health and shortening lifespan.
A recent editorial in one of the few private newspapers put these worries in some perspective.
This editorial challenged the government (and by inference the international organizations who have such power over poor governments) to do “a special study on earnings and the cost of living”. It mentioned spiraling living costs and starvation wages causing poor nutrition, and affecting life expectancy.
By way of example the editor estimated the cost of breakfast for a family of five who earn sixty dollars a month, which is above the average of an ordinary wage earner.
The editorial explained that such a family would have to pay fifty cents for a small tin of milk, twenty four cents for a cup of sugar, seventy five cents for five bread rolls. In a month these purchases alone are over half of the total family income. It suggested that if you added butter for the bread, and teabags for everyone the total earning for the month would be exceeded.
The editor wrote: “Hence this average salary could only provide a lean breakfast for the average family.” What about dinner, a place to live, clothes, transport to work, and the multitude of other things that one needs to live, even in a poor country?
This is a very stark reality for many and even worse for others (statistics suggest that 36 % of the population live on less than a dollar a day – thirty dollars a month).
A woman approached me the other morning during a visit to a small shop to buy bread for breakfast. She thought I was a doctor and told me her little boy was sick and asked if I could come and give him some medicine. Hearing my response that I wasn’t a doctor, she quickly disappeared.
This brief meeting bothered me for some time. Perhaps this child had malaria, rampant now during the rainy season. Malaria is easily treated if you have money. A blood test costs five dollars at a local clinic and the treatment medication costs fifteen dollars.
This woman more than likely fits into the 36%, and lives on less than a dollar a day. Even the cost of twenty five cents for local transport to the clinic would be out of reach, much less the costs of the test and medication.
What’s the point of all the vast sums that go into research to find better treatments and cures, if the poorest, who are most afflicted, have no way to access them?
Imagine for a minute an ideal world if, in the most prosperous countries, the waste and excess of products and services that many people buy due to slick and pervasive marketing techniques were cut even by 5 %.
If these funds then were channeled directly to the poor instead of going through the plethora of organizations and institutions that make up the “poverty industry”, what a difference could be made in the world.
Just the cost of a coffee in a coffee shop or cafe could buy at least breakfast for a family and even provide butter and a tea bag. It could easily feed a person for a day.
The worries of the poor and destitute are not only theirs’ alone, but must be everyone’s. The imbalances in our own society are now bringing many to the point of having to worry about food and shelter.
The opportunity to contemplate the world from a vantage point that allows one to witness the plight of those most poor, opens one’s mind to the possibilities that exist to bring some balance back into the world and stability to the lives of so many. However, for this to happen, there must be a will to create a better world for all.
Written by Bill Pardy
September 26th, 2013