I am not going to spoil everyone’s holidays by going off on a rant about the FUBAR state of the world, the insane lack of equity in our global society, and the ever-growing divide between the rich and the poor. In fact, I have recently overdosed on that entire conversation. In the last few months I’ve read a few different books that in some way or another offer insights and ideas about international development and aid. For the most part, the books have been interesting, but I am more interested in the work that can be done, and change that can be made, in my neighborhood or at my job. When it comes to fixing the world, I am temporarily out of service.
I am so oversaturated with the idea of sweeping international development, that I recently did something I almost never, ever do. I put a book down after reading the first thirty pages. Admittedly, I was hesitant to start reading The End of Poverty (Jeffrey Sachs, 2005), for a few reasons. Like I said, I’ve recently read several books that get into a lot of the same issues (White Man’s Burden, Dark Star Safari, Mountains Beyond Mountains). Also, I am just a little skeptical of the idea that some guy (no matter how smart he may be) has discovered the secret to ending world poverty and has managed to outline this in a convenient, digestable bestseller. Lastly, it didn´t exactly excite me that the foreword was written by Bono*. So, as I reluctantly turned the pages through the first chapter, I felt a question percolating to the front of my mind. In all this discussion of how to address the gross economic inequalities in the world, I began to wonder how (or if) Sachs would address the issue of how the world got this way. In other words, if the White Man’s Burden is to save the world’s brown people, does that responsibility grow out of the White Man’s historic role in the underdevelopment and undermining (see rape and pillage) of brown societies over the course of several centuries? Or, are we of the opinion that the developed world is just lucky, and therefore they/we should share because it is nice, and the right thing to do? Well, I did not have to wait long to hear Mr. Sachs’s take on this question. In Chapter Two he writes (italics mine):
"Let me dispose of one idea right from the start. Many people assume that the rich have gotten rich because the poor have gotten poor. In other words, they assume that Europe and the United States used military force and political strength during and after the era of colonialism to extract wealth from the poorest regions, and thereby to grow rich. This interpretation of events would be plausible if gross world product had remained roughly constant, with a rising share going to the powerful regions and a declining share going to the poorer regions. However, that is not at all what happened. Gross world product rose nearly fiftyfold. Every region of the world experienced some economic growth (both in terms of the overall size of the economy, and even when measured per person), but some regions experienced much more growth than others. The key fact of modern times is not the transfer of income from one region to another, by force or otherwise, but rather the overall increase in world income, but at a different rate in different regions." (p. 31).
And that was enough for me to stop reading and move on to the next book.** Assume?! Wait, I’m pretty sure that colonialism happened. And it is downright fallacious and fellatious to argue that the massive transfer of wealth from a lot of countries to a few is irrelevant or non-existent because the overall amount of wealth in the world has increased. But-I-ain’t-the-one-to-gossip-so-you-ain't-heard-that-from-me. Plus, I promised you this blog entry would not be about saving the world.
The title of this post actually refers to my own life, as I live it day-to-day here in Cape Verde. As in: the things I have and the things I have not. And since I rambled on a little bit in the intro to this post, we will handle the next part in the most efficient and fun way possible. It’s list time!!! In honor of Thanksgiving, I present to you, the things I am grateful for having AND the things I am grateful for not having. Enjoy:
The Have-Nots (The Things I Don’t Miss Having)
Microwave – If you can’t find a way to cook it without a microwave, you probably shouldn’t be eating it anyways.
Mirror – I am not saying that I look good no matter what (but thank you). All I’m saying is who needs a mirror in the house when you’re celebrating Brovember? Shaving is not permitted this month anyway. After the culminating Festival of M.E.A.T.*** on November 30th I will take my crunchy self to the barber and get cleaned up.
Hot Water – I came to Cape Verde swearing that I would NEVER get used to cold showers. I was wrong. My roommate and I (combined) use less than 1 cubic meter of water per week.
Teammates – There’s really nothing like being on a team. One of the hardest parts of travelling so much in the years leading up to joining the Peace Corps was not being able to fully join a soccer team. It was a great opportunity to train with good teams like Bay Area Ambassadors, University of Johannesburg, of FC Manica, but I haven’t suited up for an outdoor league match since my last game with Bosnjaci in the SFSFL in 2009. But after a few weeks of tryouts, Corinthians will be announcing their team roster this Friday, and I will be on it! Yes, I am proud and thankful for that. Special thanks to all my coaches over the years: Jim (OSC Dolphins), Micah (UHS), B.A. (UHS), Jeff (UHS), Jeff (SF Vikings), Rusty (UHS), Rene (Rosal FAS), Ibra (Bosnjaci), and on and on. Just to clarify, this is a picture of the all mighty Burners Indoor Men's Team, not Corinthians. Cape Verdeans can be light-skinnededed, but they are still brown.
A Roommate – Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have some great roommates. Long-time followers of this blog have already been introduced to Jelly. My folks back home in the town know that Trevor and I go waaaay back, and will be honorary roommates for life. Felix was the perfect roommate, until he fell completely in love and stopped hanging out with me. But I forgive you because she is hot and you ended up marrying her. That being said, my current roommate, Rory, and I have a certain chemistry that I wouldn’t trade in. Can you imagine living with someone AND working with someone everyday and NOT wanting to murder them? Well, I am happy to say that I do not have any intentions of murdering Rory, and I enjoy going almost everywhere with in tandem. In fact, we decided to celebrate Halloween this year as a pair of Mormons!
Neighbors - I love my hood and all the people in it!
Cheap Fish - No explanation required.
Students – This one speaks for itself. I am a lifelong learner, and the best way to learn is to teach, so I give thanks for having students, on the field and in the classroom.
Colleagues – A lot of jobs suck. Mine doesn't.
Furniture- We finally took the plunge and bought some real furniture to supplement our not-so-deluxe plastic picnic table and chairs, and the foot stool that we made out of recycled soda bottles. We will be eating a whole lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the next paycheck, but it’s worth it to feel like you actually live in your apartment.
A Guest – For me, this one is a lot more important than it may seem. In November 2009 I packed my life into boxes, put them in storage and left town. For the next two years I basically lived off the hospitality of some of the best people in the world (Pops included). While not paying rent is awesome, after a while I began to look forward to having the opportunity and the ability to pay that love forward. So, when a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer contacted me via my blog over a month ago, I jumped at the opportunity to play host. After wrapping up two years of service in Morocco, Adriana has joined us in Sao Vicente for a week of decompression and thanks-giving. No, we don’t have much to offer, but it means the world to be able to share it. Plus, she can cook!
All that is just to say, just be thankful for what you’ve got, and be grateful for not being loaded down with all the things that you actually don’t need anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, Chicken over Turkey all day (especially if it’s not my Daddy’s grilled Turkey). Lovage.
*My roommate told me a great story recently that reflects our feelings on Bono and his ilk. It goes like this… Halfway through a U2 concert, in between songs, Bono starts clapping very slowly. “Every time I clap my hands… a child dies in Africa dies.” A voice from the crowd yells, “Then stop f*cking clapping!”
**It is hard for me to overstate how big of a deal it is for me to not finish a book once I've started it. To put it perspective, I read every last page of Don Quixote and 2666, even though in both cases I had decided early on that I wasn’t enjoying it. Once again, thank you Colleen and Lalita for those horribly overrated suggestions. New Rule: no recommending 1000-page books unless you've actually read them yourself. Lita, I forgive you because I just got the awesome batch of books that you sent me in the mail. Colleen, I forgive you because the statute of limitations on being mad about a book has recently expired.
***Men Eating Animals Together