Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More on First vs Third World

I'm riffing off the malevolent one's comments about the spoiled Yanquis. Now and then I have worked with people who rather resemble the uber-spoiled denizens of Rate My Space. One of them thought I was kidding when I mentioned that my present house has just over 850 square feet. She lived in Hotlanta, in a gated community, and said her bedroom was about 850 square feet.

I'm one of two people on my street who spent parts of their childhood, in the US of A, living in conditions that approached third world. We spent the warm months in a two-storey, 10 by 20 foot cottage on a very small island in a much-polluted lake. We had an outhouse; we had a manual pump in the kitchen. We used boiled lake water only for washing. Got our drinking water by making a two-plus mile round trip in the boat to a spring on the mainland that we had permission to use.

That, however, was voluntary, or at least as voluntary as living conditions sometimes were in the decade after WWII. Our friend down the street came from West Virginia. She herself describes conditions in her childhood home town as "primitive". They had the same amenities I just described, except that some of her neighbours also did without internal combustion engines. She's nearly ten years younger than we.

I once was writing part of a grant proposal for a hospital in these parts and I asked J for some background. Among other things, she said that some people had to ride mules to get to the emergency room, thanks to extreme poverty and lack of roads. J is unashamedly grateful for an opportunity and for an education that took her away from that life.

We had one recruit from those parts in my Navy boot camp company. We had to teach him how to use a flush toilet.

While it is very tempting to send the whiny brats of Rate My Space to the Dominican Republic, it isn't necessary: Appalachia will make the point just fine. So will a few other choice spots in our own country where privilege is a little thin on the ground.


Blogger massmarrier said...

Into the WABAC machine, thanks to the post. My granddad built his small house by hand in a West Virginia Eastern Panhandle town (apple, not coal, country). The couple off a neighboring mountain who bought after his death were so thrilled. It had electricity, running water (replete with toilet) -- all first for them in their 60s.

11:08 a.m.  

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