Convergence is when many thoughts/ideas come together simultaneously and have greater import then when they stand alone……..There was no one right answer when I looked it up as all the qualifiers seemed to register somehow into my thoughts. You can pick and choose for yourself accordingly. There was a convergence of thought for me in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday I wrote about the idea that bullying is inherently related to poverty of the mind. Poverty of the mind is actually different from poverty of the wallet. It seemed many people missed the notion, so I will try again today. I am going to use some very real ’events’ which happened in my life which represent what I am thinking about and hope there is something which resonates with you, the reader. The names and places are kept confidential as some details could endanger people due to very real political situations around the world.
A very dear friend of mine returned from teaching abroad in an East African country for three years. We had a weepy moment on the phone about 5 PM Pacific Time as she was still decompressing from time zones. We talked about how our lives are in flux. She is returning to the states, I am moving to another part of CA, another dear friend of ours is visiting Russia this week (leaving from a job in S. Korea) and another friend is in the middle east with Peace Corps. We laughed and cried about The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and the ‘…..things we thought we needed, like cake mix……..’, how we had changed and how we observed the change in other friends. It is something you can only truly understand by being an expatriate in a third world country -whether via Peace Corps or other situation. We talked about our evolution of what was important and what we really needed in life and how our experiences abroad completely changed us for the better. We realized that as difficult as our lives are, have been, may be in the future, we did not have poverty of the mind. We would just have poverty of the wallet – which is something we could deal with because we had survived some odd situations.
The distinction of poverty of the mind was further made by my friend in Peace Corps when she sent out her ‘diary’ update. She actually got some things at the used goods stand in the capitol. She was pretty sure it came from the U.S. Far from being poor in the part of the world where she lives as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she would rather spend her money on reading materials, travel, communication with others so the clothing is superfluous in some regard (avoiding poverty of the mind). For this friend, enduring a world without reading would be a crime against humanity.
And then this morning I read the above article about families in Colorado, USA and how the middle class has walked ever closer to the edge of poverty. I realized the author did not specify the poverty being discussed as we in America only seem to think of poverty as monetary. We can not disengage our behavior from what we think we need, deserve, should have, the American dream and so forth from how 98% of the rest of the world lives. In essence ‘the cake mix’ . I would never try to diminish poverty or the very real suffering of going to a food bank or any of the other issues surrounding the article. I am trying to reframe how we look at ourselves, our concept of poverty, our sense of entitlement, our ability to allow for dignity in other parts of the world.
So, when I hear of families who had the dream of the nice car(s), own a house, 2.5 kids and pets, a garden with a picket fence and grass and so on being dealt the hand of a spiraling economy, I wish to ask some questions: (1) How many computers are at your house? (2) Do you have TV and cable to go with it? (3) Do you have an X Box, Wii, etc.? (4) How many hours a week do you spend at the public library – assuming you even have a card? (5) How often does your family eat breakfast and/or dinner together where none of you are on a cell phone or distracted in some other way? (6) How many hours a week do you and your family members do community service? (7) When was the last time you bought stuff at Goodwill, etc. rather than just donating stuff to them? (8) Is every member of your family on age/grade level for literacy? (9) Did you start saving for your kids for college when they were born? (10) Have you or any member of your family traveled to a third world country and actually went to the third world portion, not the vacationland for Americans and other westerners?
Questions 4-8 and 10 would be answered very differently by me and my various friends. In fact, since I have friends around the world, I would have to actually remove the first three questions, reword 4 and 8 which in some places are not even feasible and number 7 would have to be completely the opposite/converse as would 10. (Many of my friends have cell phones but lack the money for the calls to the states. Having a cell phone was the direct jump from no phone due to no infrastructure.) Then I would actually be able to talk to other friends about poverty.
Notice how poverty looks very different depending upon who you speak to and what you are actually trying to get at. Many of my friends would laugh at even having health care, never mind spending money on it. You all remember how difficult it has been to get HIV/AIDS meds to some places due to costs?
You do know the cost of shipping a paperback book abroad, correct? If you don’t, you may be shocked. Food pantry? How about lack of rain for your field…..Car vs. foot or animal? College on loans vs. maybe getting a Grade 6 education and hoping some how to get more and be willing to do almost anything for a visa to the U.S. to study if you get past Grade 6.
When the question is reframed, it gives us much more to think about as the concept of poverty. It is greater than the difference between the supposed 1% and 99% in America. In other parts of the world, poverty leads people to fight (literally) for basic food, education, and human dignity. We have to give up on some of what we think we need to function (the cake mix).
When the question is reframed, it is much easier to understand why people could hate us. We don’t even understand the concept of poverty. This mis-understanding of poverty is what causes a lot of bullying and often leads to war.