Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poverty and The Post Office

So I'm at the post office the other day filling for the full-time mail carrier. While I was sorting mail the other carrier and I got to talking about how she and her group were raising money for a mission trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatamala. I mentioned that I've read a few books by a shaman from there. And he wrote that Lake Atitlan was one of the most beautiful places on earth. She wholeheartedly agreed and happily added the people were much happier than we in the United States are. Than all of a sudden the expression on her face changed and she got to telling me that how she couldn't believe how much poverty is there. Her reaction to the Guatamalan's poverty reminded me of what my grandmother use to look like when I would attempt to sit on her furniture with muddy pants.

I came to the conclusion to what their mission trip was about: fighting poverty in Guatamala. The next day I had half the notion to show her Marshall Sahlin's anthropological perspective on poverty:

"The world's most primitive people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization."

I left the book at home and let it pass.


Fil said...

Isn't it fascinating how difficult it can be for people to step outside of the perspective created by their culture goggles and its associated assumptions?

People who are connected to the land, who sustain themselves more directly from it have much less need for what we claim to be "wealth" or even "normalcy."

The more time I spend working on the farm where I currently live, as well as foraging and hunting, the more I feel clearly the burden created by all the things that I own.

Curt said...

Hi Fil,

It is hard to step outside "the perspective created by [our] culture goggles and its associated assumptions, but I think it always has been to some degree. And I wasn't going to be the one who helped her step outside of that perspective, there are times when I have a difficult time doing it.

It sounds like working on the farm is going well for you. Good luck with it.