Monday, December 06, 2004

Animals, Cable and Excesses

Okay, today's post may sound a bit arrogant. I do not intend it that way. I am not looking down on anyone. Nor in any of these posts, though I always feel free to express my strong opinions. I mean, it is my blog. You can get your own and do the same thing. But that being said, there is a phenomenon that I want to comment on.

What is it with poor families having an abnormally large number of animals? My friend V. in Brazil is in a family of 7. They are poor. They have 4 dogs, 25+ chickens, 12 monkeys, and 1 cat. My friend A. in Missouri is poor with two boys. She has 7 cats. My friend C. in Africa has 4 kids, her husband and various nephews and nieces living with her, and 2 dogs, 1 cat, 2 goats, and several chickens. These are people who have trouble supporting their families. They have told me so. So why do they spend money feeding all these animals? I mean, yes, they eat the chickens and their eggs. Yes, they get milk from the goats, and occassionally use them for meat. But the dogs and cats? And why so many? This is a phenomenon that I just don't understand.

I have one cat. I have no wife, no kids. And my budget is always barely squeezing by. I love animals. I would love to have a lot more. I cannot afford it. In fact, if I was this poor when I heard of her, I probably wouldn't have Lucy either. But thank God I do, as the companionship is important. But I notice more and more people who are poor with multiple animals. That just doesn't make sense to me. As I said, I love animals, but when it comes to buying Lucy food and my own, I win. I buy her food, but she doesn't eat as well as I do sometimes.

There are a lot of these kinds of choices made by people living on or below the poverty line that puzzle me. For example, a recent study I saw showed that 90 percent of them pay $50 or more per month for cable. Yet they cannot afford dental care, and have rotting teeth. They cannot afford doctors, and have medical problems. They cannot afford food and are malnourished. I just don't understand that. You can get 10 channels with just an antenna. I pay $11.80 a month and get 25 channels. Is that not enough? Is it not more sensible to buy a VCR one month and rent movies? I mean, that would be a LOT less money in the long run.

I think the consumer culture is very addictive and escapism is becoming a normal way of life around the world. When you investigate, you find that one reason so many poor place a high value on entertainment is to escape from the depressing realities of their lives. And they seem to need a lot of options to do it, so they all get satellite dishes or HBO and Expanded Basic.

I was in Brazil staring up at these amazing favellas. Shanty after shanty built of scraps on slanting hillsides. Barely room to walk between them. No plumbing. No public power. And poking out from rooftops and windows were satellite dishes!!! It blows my mind! They ran their own power lines, siphoned off electric poles (at great personal risk) to run them, too! It is mind boggling! Sure, poor people deserve entertainment, too. Absolutely. But I think priorities are a bit screwed up. I would choose sanitary conditions first. I mean, not all of these are legal setups and neither are the power lines running them, but nonetheless, it seems confused.

I think our consumer culture has many of us thinking we are entitled to things that are luxuries and nonnecessities. I make those choices every day, but I am more and more conscious of them. Some people, I honestly believe, don't see things the same way. To them, cable or satellite is actually more of an essential than getting a dental filling!

The sad thing is that many governments think the same way. In African nations, money is blown on all kinds of perks for the poiliticians while roads are washing away with the rain and infrastructure and basic necessities are pipe dreams for a majority of the people. And while citizens complain, they often don't do so on the basis that it is irresponsible government. They just complain that they are denied such luxuries. I mean, who needs roads and power and water? They steal what they need. Why shouldn't they? The government is stealing from their tax dollars to live in luxury?

In Brazil 10 percent of the population has 90 percent of the wealth. These people have lifestyles beyond belief, yet people across the street are starving. There are numerous examples around the world. Even in the U.S. I think we really need to reexamine the cultural values and ideas that allow such inequalities to exist and create such distorted priorities! I think the God given right argument is much more applicable to the right to have good access to hospitals, doctors, and schools than it is to any right to MTV and HBO. I guess I kinda wish a lot more people felt the same way. Maybe we could change things.

1 comment:

Ronni said...

Honestly, I guess I'd be looked down upon. We aren't rich by any standards.. we drive used cars, our house could use some repair (nothing HUGE), but we have 4 dogs and we pay for cable internet. I can't have children and my dogs are my kids. They keep me sane. Yeah, I could use the money to go to the gym or something of that sort, or even eat a little better, but they are my companions. Two of them are my fault they are even here (momma is mine and got pregnant). Do I wish I had less animals? Yes, at times... but the days I come home tired and the house is empty (hubby working OT or at school) I have 4 great girls that love me to pieces and I wouldn't trade them for the world. It's just not the same with a cat...