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#14623 05/05/02 11:31 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
This is an article that appeared in the Belize Times of this week written by
Valention Shal. I share his views.

Poverty I think is relative and difficult to define. The definitions you get
depend on the criteria being used and by the person administering it. Is
there such a thing as standard measurement of poverty?

Poverty it seems is measured by Belizeans to mean the lack of material
possessions and wealth. The lack of cash income can also be used as an
indicator of poverty. Many persons who believe otherwise however dispute

Going along with the conventional measurements of poverty, Toledo is the
poorest district of Belize. Using the same measurements, the Mayas are the
poorest group of people in Belize. While thinking this poverty thing
through, I came up with some ideas that makes me feel a little uneasy and in
disagreement with those assertions.

I have never seen poverty the way I saw it in Belize City when I attended
school there about two years ago. I saw people eking out a life off the
drains of the street. I saw people living in shacks made of pieces of metal
and cardboard boxes. I saw people living on the edge of canals and would now
and again retrieve things from it for their use. I saw people who are
walking the street homeless and most of the time their minds blown away by
drugs. I saw desperation in the existence of many people. I saw things I
never saw back home; back home in my so-called poor district. I also saw
affluence that was not visible back home.

Back with my poor people, forest materials are utilized for what I consider
decent and comfortable homes. People procured their food in more decent
ways, the traditional way, by hunting in the forest for game. Back home
there are no homeless people. There is no one walking the streets having
lost his or her mind, only sometimes temporarily by alcohol consumption.
Back home people live near beautiful clean rivers, not polluted canals. Back
home people are poor but dignified and our elders die in dignity. Yes the
most affluent of our communities don't come anywhere near King's Park but
our hard work is what sustains us. Yet, with all the wonderful things about
how and where we live, we are still considered poor.

We have been told over and over that we are poor. To me it is like a
self-fulfilling prophecy. This thing about us living in abject poverty has
been hammered into our minds by almost every outsider that it has become
both an adjective and a synonym for us. In calculating the GDP, economists
don't (can't?) calculate subsistence agriculture because there is no cash
income involved. Therefore, our per capita income is very small. The
deficiency of our popular method of livelihood is not in what it brings to
the family but it cannot easily be translated into the mainstream cash
economy. Whether or not the farmer earns an income, he has a secure source
of food. Compare that to the manual labourer in Belize City. Unless he earns
an income, he won't eat. Even with the income earned, minimum wage being so
minimum, sometimes a job doesn't guarantee as much as food, when so many
other expenses need to be figured in.

Am I poor simply because I don't have possessions that are seen as status
symbols? I don't have a phone at home. I don't have refrigerator. I don't
even have a bicycle. I don't have a television, which means I don't have
cable. I don't have these things that some people would do anything to have.
Just because I lack these things would you say that I am poor? I am sure
some will argue that it is not because I can't have them but maybe I just
don't want them. But what if that were not true. Would you still consider me

I think that our approach to poverty alleviation needs to be revisited. If
we want people to have more cash income so that it looks good on the GDP per
capita income then we will be dramatically be changing the lifestyle of an
entire society. This is not possible all at one time if it is possible at
all. We can also through our poverty alleviation mission improve what
already exists. This we can do by strengthening what people already have
without drastic changes. This is more pragmatic.

After telling us that we are poor over and over for all these years we are
really being affected in a negative way psychologically. You cause us not to
accept ourselves, the good we have and our capacities. We are pressured to
reinvent ourselves so that the indicators indicate that we are no longer

As for Belize City, the commercial capital of Belize, I look at you and the
heinous crimes committed against you and your families. I look at you locked
up in your homes like prisoners. I look at you losing your children in the
streets and say, poor people.

I am happy, I am at peace and I am free in Toledo. This unfortunately does
not show up in the statistics. Poor me.

#14624 05/05/02 01:20 PM
Thanks for passing this on. It certainly makes you look at things differently. I know that in describing the people of Belize, I always tell people that they are rich in traditions, rich in their hearts, etc. But in the next sentence, I say... and some of them have never traveled more than 20 miles from their home, many live without phones, tv, a.c., etc. I guess it has never even dawned on me that they really don't want these things. They would be trading in their way of life for something that "we" think is more appealing or appropriate. And you know as well as I that those who have all the modern conveniences, well-educated and travelled, are often very unhappy people. I hope that these people are allowed to live as they choose, for as long as they want to. They are the Spirit of Belize!

#14625 05/06/02 10:11 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 476
Did you see the pioneer experiment on PBS last week? They took three volunteer families and stuck them out in the middle of no-where Montana for 5 months. They had to build cabins, raise crops, and animals only using pioneer era tools.

After the experiment, they visited the volunteers back in the real world. A woman who lives in a huge hilltop mansion said their house now felt way too big and empty. Her teenage daughters who went without TV and shopping for five months now said that they were bored back in the real world. Hanging out at the mall all day just didn't cut it any more...

Technology and the like marches forward and we assume its progress, but is it really?

In my opinion, it is too easy to get caught up in the complexities of the modern world and its gadgets and forget about the basics of life...

#14626 05/24/02 04:48 PM
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 4,262
I agree, Marty. Very nice article.

Gone fishing!!
#14627 05/25/02 02:31 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 8
Very nice article.

I received this "joke" in the mail this week that goes along the same lines...hope you enjoy it.

A businessman was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The man replied that it took only a little while.

The businessman then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The man said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The businessman then asked the man how he spent the rest of his time.

The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."

The businessman scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"

To which the businessman replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then, senor?" asked the fisherman.

The businessman laughed, and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You'll become very rich, you will make millions!"

"Millions, senor?" replied the man. "Then what?"

The businessmans said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

#14628 05/25/02 07:24 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 322
snicker, snicker. Love that one!

#14629 05/26/02 12:47 AM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 12
Thank you Marty for putting into words this important observation of life.
I admire you and applaud you.
Now... if only more of us could see the light, this world would be a happier place.

#14630 05/27/02 08:47 AM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 12
Correction- I applaud Marty for passing this on to all of us. I applaud Valention Shal for putting this into words. (Must be staying up too late at night reading these posts).

#14631 05/27/02 07:13 PM
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,976
say la true!!

#14632 05/27/02 09:29 PM
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 734
I do the 'wife/siesta' part a lot.

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