If You Don’t Know What You’re Missing, You Don’t Miss It

Posted on November 23, 2012


Because of Thanksgiving, many are enjoying a long weekend. so, no politics today, rather an observation of mine you may find interesting.

The title of this post is an inherent truth, isn’t it? If one doesn’t know what they are missing, then they can not long for it envy those that have what they are missing. As result of living here in Venezuela, I have had the opportunity to observe this phenomena up close and personal. I am talking, of course, about the very poor.

The images that Americans often see of the most destitute of people, often shows them scavenging through huge garbage dumps, looking more likely for things they can use and most likely things they can sell, rather than what many assume, looking for food. These people are very real. They do exist. But, these poorest of the poor are a tiny fraction of the poor people in countries like Venezuela.

If you were to visit one of the major cities here, like Caracas, the capitol, and be given a tour of this city of over four million, you would see on the fringes of the city huge barrios (slums). You would also see smaller barrios nixed between the well to do neighborhoods.  The people who live in these barrios today are probably third, or fourth, or fifth generation residents. Originally these people came from what we call el campo. El campo can be translated as rural areas or farming county. But in the context that I am using it, a better translation might be that these people cane from the sticks. They came to the cities looking for a better life. They didn’t find it. It is a bit of a mystery why they never returned to el campo.

The poor who live in these barrios are very much aware of what they are missing. It is in their face every day of their lives. They do long for what they don’t have. They do envy those that have what they want. To an extent, this makes these people dangerous. I don’t mean to imply that all the poor in the barrios are criminals and dangerous. They are not. The majority are decent people who work hard for what little they have or, at least, they would work hard if they could find a decent job. But much like the inner-cities in America, these barrios are breeding grounds for gangs and other types of violent people. In the last ten years, the number of murders in this country over thirty million people has escalated geometrically. last year there were over 17,000 murders according to official government reports, which means there were many more murders. You do the math. That is a very high murder rate.

The poor who live in el campo, have limited contact with city life and with the central government. They have more contact with their local government. Mayors (Alcaldes) in Venezuela, have authority over areas much greater than their town or city. The area of their authority is more like an American county. Besides their authority over the people in el campo, the central governments places certain obligations on the mayors to provide minimum services to the people living in the sticks. The Mayors must provide, for example, potable water to them. Typically there are a couple of 55 gallon drums at the edge of the roads that pass by their homes and a water trucks comes by a couple of times a week to fill them with water. They are also provided schools in the area and bus service for the children,

Some of the poor who live in el campo do live in tiny villages. Many, however, literally live in the sticks. These people, at some point in time, occupied an area in the forests and if the Guardia Nacional didn’t come along a throw them off the land, they became defacto owners of the land. They don’t have titles to the land, of course, and can’t sell the land.  They can, however,  sell what they have constructed on the land and the new residents will be allowed to live there as if they owned the land as well.

If you were to visit one of these families, as my wife and I have done on several occasions, your immediate reaction would be one of pity for what you see as the miserable life style they have to live. But, if you observed them for more time, you would realize that they do not see themselves as being miserable. They certainly are aware that they are poor, but miserable, no. You would notice that their children running around half-naked appear very healthy and they are. What ever their diet is, it is healthy. You would come to realize that they can acquire their food needs without a lot of effort. They grow much of what they need but they don’t work very hard at it. In this tropical or semi-tropical climate things grow without a lot of attention. They have some chickens and they might have a few pigs. They earn the little bit of money they need in various ways. One old lady my wife I visited a few times, earned money by sending her children into the mountains to recover orchids in a condition that the orchid could survive and  they sold the orchids to passers-by on the road in front of where they live. These people are accustomed walking long distances. They have many family and friends that live just same. They get together, they talk, they smile and they laugh, they play their music and they sing and dance, and they drink cheap local rum or they make their own home-brew. They are content with their lives. They envy no body. They don’t know much about what they are missing. So, they don’t miss it. If you were to drive up and park in front of their homes and walk up to their houses, they would be delighted to see you and invite you to sit down and visit. They would probably would try to sell you something, but they won’t be up set if you don’t buy. If sociologist or anthropologists were to study them, they would probably say that they enjoy life more than most Americans. They know little of stress. When the financial crisis of 3008 occurred, Venezuela was affected. too. An oil exporting country, when oil prices fell and stayed low for several months, the impact was evident. The poor in the barrios were aware of it. The poor in el campo had no idea there was such a crisis. Their lives didn’t change one iota.

Those who have follow this blog for a while know that I belive very dark times are coming to America. If the worst occurs, there is a message and a lesson for you in what I have written today. That is what all the survival blogs are all about, right? So, maybe owning some land and knowing how to live off of it if necessary, might be a worthwhile insurance policy for some Americans. One can always hope they never have to collect on an insurance policy, right?

Well, now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

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