Saturday, January 01, 2011

Poverty: It's where we started

And I'll go ahead and address the "highest rated comments".

How can I take this seriously when the people literally "popped" out of the earth?

Next time we'll have it closed-captioned for the humor impaired.

whoa whoa whoa... so let me get this straight. the massive overcrowding of slums around the world in places like nairobi and mexico city are just fine and dandy?

It's not the number of people in the slums; it's the poverty. People are crammed in pretty tight in Hong Kong, and they're thriving. The answer isn't to turn the poor into Soylent Green. It's to find out how the people in Hong Kong got to be so prosperous, then strive to replicate this.


Lilliput said...


Seriously, what planet are these people from? Here on Earth, its relative poverty that's the problem. The bigger the difference between rich & poor, the greater the societal problems of mental illness and addiction - which drive crime. And its certainly not all rosy in Hong Kong either......

Besides, not everyone wants to live in one big shopping centre and terrible air pollution!

Is it also a myth that we are emptying the oceans, destroying the forests and driving species to extinction?

Christina Dunigan said...

1. "Relative poverty." Read "envy". If the poor are getting richer -- living longer, eating better, enjoying better health -- who gives a happy shit that somebody else has LOTS more? This obsession with "But Billy has MOOOOORRRRREEEEEE!" is unhealthy and, frankly, evil. Worry about helping those at the bottom to improve their lives, not about punishing the successful.

And I notice that the people complaining about income disparity are never upset about their OWN high income. We're okay with ourselves being at the far end of the bell curve. It's those slimebags a bit higher up the high end that piss us off.

Where are YOU on the global income scale?

2. Nobody said everybody wants to live in one big shopping center with terrible air pollution. But the world isn't nearly as crowded as popular culture thinks it is. I pictured "overpopulated" China as being wall to wall people from border to border, and was surprised to see how much of it is lush and green and as verdant as the Great Smoky Mountains.

The question is, with all that space to spread out in, why do the majority prefer to congregate in cities? Because there's greater opportunity there.

And you can address pollution without developing a pathological hatred of poor people. Help them to become prosperous enough that they, too, can enjoy the luxury of cleanliness.

3. Let's move away from the hyperbolae, shall we? Humans drove species to extinction LONG before industrialization and "overpopulation". Short-sightedness and selfishness are distinctly human traits. (And not all extinctions are bad. Did YOU donate to "Save the Smallpox"?) Look at the economics of what drive problematic behaviors, then fix the problems. Don't lump every human ill into "There's way too many of those yucky brown and black and yellow people" like a good little population control alarmist.

Funny how it's always those black and brown and yellow people who there's too many of. Population alarmists NEVER pitch a fit about how overpopulated WHITE people are.

Lilliput said...


1. I would be classed and class myself as poor - earning far below even the average salary in London. "Envy" is part of the human condition - trying to remove it - is like removing our ears. We can address that condition - by providing all people with equal opportunities (as much as possible)so they can achieve the best standard of living. That may mean that we have to address the "greed" - another human condition - that comes at the top so that they don't take the piss - like the bankers who have caused the latest financial meltdown.

2. I insist that the lush verdant unpopulated areas remain just so - because they are filled with non human earthlings and they have a right to exist too!! I can tell u why I live in a big city - because my interest is in mental health issues - and here there is an overabundance of them - mostly from people losing contact with factors required for healthy human living - space, air, family, good food and fun.

3. Again - I don't know why you bring race into it - you are the one that mentioned HK - but the overpopulated poor slums in the world occur where? The declining population rates are where? Most of Europe (white) has a declining birthrate - so obviously no one is alarmed. China has put itself on a one child policy. Southern Africa is experiencing an AIDs epidemic of 1 in 4 adults HIV positive - the population is regulating itself.

Finally, if you can seriously compare the extinction of smallpox virus and sharks or tigers then is don't really know. The source of the extinction is that rich people (I know its them because they are the only ones that can afford this shit) want to show off by eating shark fin soup and tiger skin rugs. They pay large sums of money to a series of very poor people to hunt and kill any on sight. What would you do to solve that problem?

Christina Dunigan said...

1. You're still filthy rich by world standards. You have a sound roof over your head, climate control, sanitation, hot and cold running water, and an adequate diet. These are undreamt-of luxuries for most of the world. But you're okay with being a have. You don't consider yourself greedy for having so much more than an African bushman or a child living on Mt. Trashmore in Manilla. Why is that? Because it's fare more emotionally satisfying to compare those poor people to Bill Gates than to compare them to yourself.

If income disparity is evil, then you are guilty of it yourself, for having so much more than a random Hatian orphan. Are you willing to just give away 90% of YOUR income to rectify the income disparity?

And yes, envy is very human. And it's an evil to be discouraged, not a virtue to be taught. Our current culture teaches envy as a virtue.

Greed is human. But I notice that the people who complain about greed never notice greed in themselves. They see no evil in spending $6 on a cup of coffee, when that $6 would sustain a Kenyan family for a week. Focusing on those with more than you gives you a chance to feel smug about your own self-indulgence, because it doesn't seem as spectacular to you as the guy who owns several mansions.

If you're going to call it evil and greedy to have more than you need, then you yourself stand guilty as well.

How about looking at it another way -- in terms of how the wealth gets spread? After the Christmas Tsunami, the people of Thailand said, "Don't send us aid. Come as tourists, so we can have jobs." So I, one of the richest 2% in the world ($24,000 a year at the time) became one of the tourists who brought an influx of wealth. I provided a single tour guide with a job for an entire week. I could not have done that had I been poor, like him. I purchased food and transportation and souvenirs, all of which contributed to the economy.

How much MORE does somebody even richer pump into the economy? How many people have jobs because of how rich Bill Gates has gotten? Not just the people who work for Microsoft, but for people who have the jobs that sprung up thanks to the information revolution. IT guys and repair technicians and the people who manufacture and distribute printers and toner and ink jet cartridges.

You don't raise people out of poverty by treating wealth creation as if it's a crime. You raise people out of poverty by giving them the opportunity to tap into the wealth creation game, the way Lek, my Thai tour guide, did by being friendly and bi-lingual and knowing his way around the mountains outside of Chaing Mai. Linking him up with tourists willing to pay for his skills does a lot more for him than taxing those tourists so much that they can't afford the trip, then passing that tax money through the hands of scores of bureaucrats and aid workers so that Lek ends up with a few more bananas than he'd have otherwise had.

Christina Dunigan said...

2. I've never indicated that I want to see lush, verdant areas paved over, have I? I'm glad people tend to congregate in cities, so that there are still pristine beauty spots, so that there is wildlife, so that there are plenty of plants to exchange our carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen, etc.

Living in a city doesn't necessarily deprive you of the things needed for healthy human living. There are far more factors than the mere number of people per square mile.

Yes, the anonymity of the city tends to be unhealthy -- but it can be overcome by building community within the city, the way the expats in Bucheon had their own subculture. All of the expats formed friendships and banded together and had a small subcommunity that interacted in healthy, mutually satisfying ways with the local Koreans who were interested.

People have always had mental health issues. Read "Little Town on the Prairie" to see a glaring example of a woman suffering from severe clinical depression -- the woman of the family Laura boarded with during her first teaching job. She had plenty of space, air, family, and good food. She only lacked fun because the depression kept her from it.

Christina Dunigan said...

3. I mention race because population control fanatics are always upset about the number of brown and black and yellow people, and never about the number of white people. Population alarmism is a socially acceptable way to be racist.

And I brought up the extinction of smallpox to highlight the indiscriminate nature of the alarmism. Tigers and rhinos and little brown bats being endangered? That's a problem. I don't want to see them go the way of the dodo. But when we start hand-flapping about how many species are endangered, we need to ask, "Are these tigers and rhinos and bats, or are they shower curtain molds and disease vectors?" Would the extinction of the africanized bee be a huge tragedy? I think not.

And rich people are the ones who can afford to PRESERVE animals. There are currently more tigers in Texas than in the entire remainder of the world. Rich rednecks are doing more to keep tigers from becoming extinct than all the efforts of all the conservationists combined.

You need to address the local economics of endangered animals. Rich creeps are willing to pay $15,000 for a tiger pelt? So when a zoo tiger dies of natural causes, let the zoo sell the pelt, and the money go to tiger conservation. Thus the desire of the rich creep for a tiger pelt is satisfied without costing a single tiger its life. Ditto for the remaining tiger parts. Banning them just makes it more of a status symbol to have them, so maintain records of where they came from, and have it only illegal to purchase black market pelts, bones, etc.

And reward the villagers who know there is a tiger nearby, by carefully developed tiger tourism. Rich people would pay good money to live in a grass hut from which they might spot a tiger in the wild. Locals would become employed taking care of the tourists. The tiger would infuse money into the local economy and raise the standard of living, without destroying the tigers' habitat.

When the presence of the tigers becomes a boost to the local economy, more land will be allotted to the tigers. Ditto the rhinos, etc.

It just strikes me that the Beautiful People want to solve all the world's problems by spaying and neutering poor minority people as though they're feral animals, and by punishing people for creating the jobs that would lift poor people out of poverty.

Lilliput said...

Christina, I am human and since greed and envy are part of the human condition then of course I am talking about myself when I mention them. I wonder though how "greed" is somehow written into the america constitution in the form of entrepreneurship but envy is regarded a sin. Saying that - I don't for one second rage against wealth creators - only when their persuit of wealth comes at the expense of others - and this has been soundly documented around the world!

Secondly, I cannot possibly compare my wealth to a third world subsistence inhabitant because we might as well live on a different planet. I need different things eg without a mobile phone I cannot keep in touch with loved ones or find a job - they don't need one! Without a pension I will starve in my old age but they won't live that long. Its no point to compare us!

Yes there were always mentally ill people - they were usually pushed down the mountain or ostracised from their communities - now we help them and obviously they stay alive and reproduce so there are more of them! I don't know why "there were always mentally ill people" makes a difference to your argument. I was just saying that city living increases the risk of mental illness.

Finally, there is no ban on shark. Fishing and yet they are still being fished to extinction - what we need is a mindset change from " we can take what we want as God will provide forever" to " natural resources are limited and in balance and if not kept that way they will die out" now it just happens to be that western educated people have that understanding while others don't. They ae also further up maslows hierarchy of needs and have the capacity to think about others and that there is a tomorrow. Starving people of whatever colour cannot!

I agree with you about tourism bringing in jobs in and I think that's great. How do we wo more?

Christina Dunigan said...

Lil, I'm pointing out that those who castigate the "greedy rich" never think to place themselves squarely in that category. And, on a global scale, they are. They could choose to live in a flophouse or squat in an abandoned building or something so that they can donate their beyond-sustenance income to those who'd be grateful for a flophouse or an abandoned building to squat in. And until they're willing to bring their own income down into the center of the bell curve, they ought not to be so high and mighty about there being others farther up the bell curve.

Population control is something that people just start doing on their own once their society has reached a certain level of prosperity. Try to force it sooner and you're condemning people to poverty, because it takes a certain demographic tipping point to build a prosperous economy.

Part of the problem is that it's seen as okay when poverty pimps swarm all over the poor and get rich administering poverty programs, but if some rich person opens a factory and gives them jobs he's "exploiting" them. What we need are fewer poverty pimps and more people who will be an area's Milton Hershey. I think if we started encouraging philanthropists to Hersheyize poor communities, we'd see a real eradication of poverty. Instead of castigating corporations that set up shop in poverty areas, start highlighting and patronizing the ones that do the most for their workers. Spend time and effort praising businesses that build schools and hospitals -- which, let's fact it, are dirt cheap in poor areas.

As for the mentally ill, part of what we need is to allow people to complete advance directives when their mental illness is in remission, to make it easier to treat them when the illness acts up. As it stands now, in the US at least, the illness has more effective rights than the person.

I doubt that people guilty of overfishing or overpoaching think in terms of "God providing forever." They just think of their own immediate wants or needs, and let the future worry about itself. And that is where you need to step in as a government and define areas of the sea so they're managed.

Frankly, I'd love to be able to devote more time, effort, and money to conservation. I'm particularly fond of tigers and little brown bats, and am dismayed that both are endangered. And I want real solutions, not feel-good solutions that may actually exacerbate the problem. And you have to address each facet of the problem on its own. Bat habitat loss can be addressed by one group of solutions, and the white nose syndrome studied -- and I'd encourage a massive educational campaign among speleunkers, who are believed to be the vector spreading white nose syndrome.

When a house is on fire, though, the firefighters will rescue the family, THEN go back in after the pets if possible. When so many human beings are currently being killed by abortion, lack of potable water, and genocide, it's hard to divert my resources to bats and tigers. And lifting people out of poverty will probably significantly reduce poaching anyway, as it will provide other, legal, non-destructive ways to make a living. My time tends to go to addressing abortion and genocide, my money to addressing sanitation. (As unglamorous a pursuit as their is!) And I'm glad that there are others called to conservation. I just want them to do it in a way that lifts people out of poverty -- such as eco-tourism.

Lilliput said...

Christina, I agree with you about poverty pimps being of no use. This is why billions of dollars in aid to the third world have not helped at all. I agree that companies opening up in poorer countries giving jobs is the answer but unfortunately it seems that most of them will do so in order to pay workers less then minimum pay and working conditions - this is why we have children working in factories making cheap clothes for the west. I suppose that since children were also exploited in first world countries eg british child chimney sweeps, which helped the british become prosperous - then I suppose we can't complain.

I don't agree that poverty has anything to do with population. Previous subsistence communities in Europe became prosperous due to inventing tools to store food, provide shelter and lift themselves out of being trapped by meeting daily needs. Then they invented tools of war and transportation so they could take over everyone elses resources - commonly known as colonialism. Once at the top - its easy to keep getting richer. How else do you explain how a tiny relatively unpopulated country called Britain ruled the world for so long?

As for my resources, I have no doubt that the human race is in any danger of extinction - so will always fight for those beings closer to disappearing. People will always be dying - its a part of life.

I didn't understand what you mean by "advance directives" for the mentally ill? I don't know if mental illness can be in remission?

Christina Dunigan said...

Severe, debilitating mental illness tends to run in cycles. The person will be debilitated, then get stable on medications. The meds will be titrated down to a maintenance dosage. But after a while they're not as effective. Sometimes the person can take a "med holiday" of a couple of months, under careful monitoring, and then resume the medication and the symptoms will remain under control.

However, sometimes the person either goes off the meds, or the medication stops being effective. The person becomes unstable again -- but because of the illness, is unable to recognize this. They'll think that they're just fine but being persecuted or poisoned.

What I want is for the person to be able, during a lucid period, to name two or more designated people who, if two of them are in agreement, AND the person is exhibiting certain symptoms, can commit the person to the hospital to get their medications adjusted.

The two proxies plus specific symptoms prevents abuse. BOTH proxies have to agree that the person needs to be committed, AND the person must be exhibiting symptoms that the mental illness is flaring up.

We'd see a lot less wasted lives if we allowed for this.

You're allowed to name medical proxies, or choose in advance treatments for yourself, should you be in a coma or vegetative state. Florid psychosis should be no different. You're NOT YOURSELF when you're psychotic. You're buried under all the symptoms.

Kathy said...

Reminds me of the movie "Mr. Jones," in which the title character, played by Richard Gere, has bipolar, and tends to think he's fine so stops taking his medications, then goes through a manic stage when everything *is* "fine" (by his reasoning -- he feels great, gets a lot accomplished, etc.), but then when he bottoms out, he tries to kill himself. Occasionally he realizes he has a problem, and takes his medication as prescribed, but it doesn't last. He occasionally commits himself and sometimes is committed against his will; but if that portrayal is accurate, I can see that it could be good for various mental patients to have advance directives, written when they're "of sound mind," for those times when they're not. [I didn't particularly care for the movie, so it's not a recommendation unless you like that type of movie.]

Lilliput said...

I don't know about the US but in the UK a mentally ill person is under the care of a psychiatrist and social worker, they agree to commit the person when they are not well enough to take their medication on their own. Who are the two people that you were thinking of? I don't think they need directives as when they are not well they automatically become vulnerable adults under social and medical services care. If they give a directive of no treatment - are we supposed to follow that and let them fly like superman?

Kathy said...

Unfortunately, legislation and/or judicial rulings have made it increasingly difficult to get people committed. I may be wrong, but I think that even people with very obvious psychological problems cannot be committed against their will, unless they are shown to be a danger to others (and possibly also to themselves). If you look at movies set in big cities, you will often see some mentally ill person (schizophrenic or otherwise delusional) talking to himself as he walks down the street -- why would they include that as such a common factor in movies if there were not some truth to it? Perhaps he would be placed in a mental institute in the UK over that behavior, but that's not enough in the US. [And this is probably the result of people being wrongly incarcerated in mental hospitals when the were actually sane -- raise the burden of proof so that it's harder for people to be wrongly "imprisoned," even if that means some people who should be there and could be helped, are not.

Christina Dunigan said...

Kathy's right. You have to be able to show that the person is a danger to himself or others. And it has to be a danger of death or serious physical harm. It can't just be, "He's ruining his life."

We have a woman in our city who is clearly in the throes of terrible paranoid schizophrenia. She is also (probably as a result) a hoarder whose house is a public menace. Though the city can go after her for code violations, and even send in crews to clean out the junk, all this does is feed in to her paranoia and make it worse. But they can't commit her. The house caught fire recently, and she's living in a homeless shelter, and even NOW, when her paranoid hoarding has caused a fire, endangering her and the firefighters and the neighbors, it's not enough to commit her and get her the medication she desperately needs. This highly educated and intelligent woman will spend the rest of her life as a crazy bag lady living in a rat trap, because her "civil rights" would be violated if she was given care.

Lilliput said...

Christina and Kathy, I don't think its about "civil rights" although I suppose they are important and that is why it takes two highly trained professionals to make the decision to commit an ill person - but rather about funding and who is going to pay for it. There are very few beds in psychiatric units in the UK as they have moved towards a more "care in the community" model which means that hospitals are filled with the most ill people and sometimes are not the best places for recuperation. I think its all about the money and if there was more of it - then this poor woman you speak about would get the care she so obviously requires.

Kathy said...

Sorry, Lil; that may be the way it is in the UK, but not in the US. There have been people from wealthy families, who should have been committed (and the families would have been easily able to pay for it, so it wouldn't have cost "the government" or "the taxpayer" a dime), but it can't be done until and unless the person is shown to be a danger to society and/or himself.

I remember reading about a case (granted, this was years and years ago), of a man who was schizophrenic and homeless because of the schizophrenia. His family wanted him committed just long enough to get him on his meds so that he would get back his "sound mind", because previously when he was on medication, he was normal and a functioning member of society, but he thought he had conquered his problem, so stopped taking his medication, and deteriorated into paranoia. They couldn't do that, because even though he was homeless and living in a cardboard box and refused to get help -- all due to his mental problems and refusal to take medications -- he wasn't bad enough to be committed. Sad. As I've said before, there are many laws I would change in this country, if I had the ability, so I'm not defending it, but it is what we're stuck with at least for the time being.

Christina Dunigan said...

Lil, Kathy nailed it again.

It doesn't matter if the person has insurance or their family is rich and can afford the care. And even if they don't have insurance, it's considered emergency care. They're to be cared for.

But people lobbied for the right to refuse mental health care -- and went too far. What started as a way of sparing people from lobotomies and ECT and being doped into oblivion, turned into a virtual inability, on "civil rights" grounds, to treat a mentally ill person who isn't getting all stabby. And by then it's often too late and a cop has to shoot them to keep them from killing somebody.

Lilliput said...

That's just sad!

Christina Dunigan said...

It's heartbreaking, Lil. And in the US, it's one of the biggest causes of homelessness. These are people eligible for subsidized housing, in supportive settings where they'd be cared for, but they're too mentally ill to accept it. They end up in the streets.

One of my former mental health clients became homeless for just this reason. He went off his medication, and started spending all day sitting in a tree in the yard, wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans, eating raw macaroni out of a cereal bowl. He was so put off by our attempts to get him back on his medication that he simply left, and could be seen sleeping in the cemetery or in parks.

His family tried to commit him. The judge asked him how he'd have enough to eat. He said he knew what house his disability check was delivered to and would watch for the mailman and take it and cash it to buy more food. The judge asked how he dealt with bad weather, and he said he could sleep on the porches of vacant houses to get out of the rain, and would migrate south as the weather got cold.

The judge declared him to not be a danger to himself, and refused to commit him. His family was devastated. But there was nothing more they could do.

Lilliput said...

Why is there a judge instead of a psychiatrist and a social worker? why is an unqualified person making a health decision instead of a doctor? It just doesn't make any sense?

In the UK they don't like homelessness -its bad for business and bad for tourism - to the point where they will house anyone - even an intravenous drug user and allow them to take drugs on the property.

This may be why you have Furedi, talking about the moral freedom to make a choice about having a late term abortion - because on th UK you really will get all the support you need to raise your child so if you decide not to - its because you really don't want to.

Christina Dunigan said...

You have to petition the court and get a court order.

And it sounds like what you're saying is that in the UK, the only reason to have an abortion is that you actually WANT a dead baby.

Lilliput said...

Well maybe that's the problem with the system - courts are for justice not health care!

I'm saying that in the uk where support is an entitlement then the major reason for abortion is that the women don't want to parent. Obviously there are individual women who may be coerced but us being the teenage pregnancy and single mom capital of europe substantiates that claim.