Don’t push me cuz I’m close to the edge….

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Personal, Uncategorized

Being poor in the U.S. is not the same as being poor in other countries.  I’ve said this many times to many different people in my life but I’m not sure they really understood what I meant.  Well here’s a map that provides an excellent example of what I mean.

Note how people in the U.S. spend less than 7% of their income on food.  Whereas in Algeria they spend almost 44% of their income on food.  Just think about it…if food prices go up, who has more “slack” to cover the cost of the increase?  Who is more likely to be able to make that adjustment and who is more likely to end up eating less?  Not Americans.  There’s a reason why we have an epidemic of obesity in this country.  For the most part, we don’t know what it is to be truly poor and truly hungry.

Another illustration was one I found in a college sociology textbook (and haven’t been able to find the photos since then). There are three photos of an average sized family:  One from America, one from Sweden, and one from Africa (can’t remember which country).  Anyway, each family has all of the members lined up with all of their possessions arrayed on their front yard.  The American family has their multiple cars, their furniture, their toys, their TV’s, their computers, etc filling the yard of their 3 to 4 room single story home on about an acre of land.  Their possessions literally fill the space of the yard.  The Swedish family has one car, one TV, one computer,  some furniture, etc but has noticeably fewer “things” in front of a noticeably smaller house.  The third family stands in front of a small mud brick house that has one large common room, maybe one smaller separate room, and the possessions consist mainly of pottery jars of various sizes that take up very little space around the family.  I cannot imagine what it would be like if my prized possession, my only real possession of value, ended up being a pottery jar.  And that jar was valuable because I needed it for multiple important tasks such as fetching clean water, holding that water, carrying and storing food, etc.  Hell, in America we have special bags that we use to carry food and we have appliances that help us store food.  Not so in the rest of the world.  There is very little in the way of food storage….when do they have extra food to store for tomorrow anyway!

None of this is to say that all Americans have it good and they should just shut up.  Not at all.  I understand there are plenty of starving and homeless people in the U.S.  But “on average” our level of well-being is light years ahead of the average family elsewhere.    I understand that a family struggling to make it in the U.S. is still struggling in very real ways.  I have been struggling financially for several years now.    However, these kinds of stories and facts remind me to be grateful for living in the U.S.  And because I have it so much better than 99% of the rest of the world, whining about my situation is as hypocritical as it is pathetic.  It could be oh so much worse and opportunities to get out of the hole I am in could be so much more limited if I lived elsewhere.

  1. nancym says:

    Hi there- saw your comments on Deus Ex Malcontent and checked out your blog. I think the illustrations of families’ possessions around the world is: “Material World: A Global Family Portrait” by Peter Menzel; give it a google. I remember seeing those photos in a National Geographic once. Very eye-opening, and makes me more than a little ashamed of all my material crap.

    • drangedinaz says:

      Thanks! I checked out the book you’re referring to and that wasn’t exactly it but close enough to serve the same purpose. Yeah, those kinds of pics always make me feel a little ashamed but also grateful. I appreciate the comment and hope you come back to visit in future.

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