Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Africa's Poor v. America's Poor

It is pretty easy to look at the homeless in the United States and say, "Yeah, they're poor, but they aren't as poor as the starving people in..." (name impoverished country, usually in Africa).

Certainly, if we are talking about physical depravity and lack of what helps us survive, those in the poorest countries in the world are worse off than the homeless.  The homeless are resourceful, and often live off the toss-offs of the wealthy country they live in.  A dumpster behind a single grocery story in the United States has better and more plentiful food than what is offered a whole city of beggars in a poor country.  In impoverished cities or nations, the problem is scarcity, and while some use that scarcity for their own advantage, the major problem is a universal one.

But if you look at the poor people of other nations, you can see a major difference between them and the poor of the United States:

Do you notice the differences?  The non-Americans were all obviously starving, that's one difference.  But the more obvious difference is that the non-Americans are with others, working with others, but the Americans are alone.  This is probably just a result of the style of the photographers, but it also reflects a reality both live with.  The poverty of Africa is a poverty of resource to certain communities.  The poverty of America is a poverty of community which results in scarcity.

The poverty of the homeless person or of the welfare mom or of the mentally ill is not a lack of food, but a lack of meaningful community.  Poverty is not primarily an economic reality.  Rather, it is a social reality that has an economic result.  The poverty of the third world is a poverty of a community.  The poverty of the United States is a poverty of individuals.

The poverty of the United States, which might also include starvation, but certainly includes dangers of hypothermia and dehydration and sickness due to stress and unsanitary conditions, but also has an added layer of daily rejection from society.  

Not only is a poor individual in the US facing a lack of their survival needs, but they also have people telling them how bad they are, forcing them to move on a regular basis, assumptions that they are criminal and people telling them how they are not doing enough.  They are rejected by a whole society, outcasts from community, forced to not only be poor, but to be isolated.

I am not sure which poverty is worse. 


  1. I noticed all the ribs on the African kids, and that American dumpster divers were fat and sleek compared to the Africans. And dressed well, with blankets, and shoes...coats....

  2. The reason for that difference in body fat is because of the kind of meals each people get. Africans eat basic, cooked meals, which are generally healthy, but not enough calories to maintain their health.

    American poverty can be full of calories, even overfull, but it is almost all carbs. If one has little money, then you can buy soda and desserts cheaper than you can apples, it is more filling and your body craves it more. Healthy food is tough to come by.

    And if you look at the homeless, you will see that they aren't very skinny at all.

    Besides, my argument is that the American poverty is primarily social and the third world poverty is primarily physical. It all balances out.