On Captialsm and Wealth – Religion and Politics

How do you in the United States (at or relatively near the “poverty level” in particular) think it would feel to be filthy rich?

What if I told you that by comparison to much of the rest of the World’s population, you know?

You see, it turns out that in very few places in the World do those who are considered “well off,” by and large, have as much substance as the impoverished here in the good ol’ U S of A do.

Put another way, you’re a relatively wealthy person, living a life of mostly First-World problems. Ooh, you missed a meal? How about if you lived in a place where, in order to make sure your children were fed, you regularly didn’t eat at all, and when you did eat, you did all you could to make sure your children did more eating than you did?

You’re worried about paying rent? How about living in a ramshackle hovel, with no running water, no heat, and no air conditioning, where—forgive me for being so crass—your “toilet”  is a hole in the ground or a tree?

I could go on—tell you about people living on garbage piles in Mexico and such—but I think you probably somewhat get the gist by what I’ve said to this point. The fact is, that residents of the United States of America are pretty much to a person among the World’s rich and elite.

The result is, when I hear people trashing Capitalism because they will “never be among the U.S.’ Rich,” I’m tempted to laugh them to scorn. Thing is though, many of them truly don’t know. They have as a frame of reference, having spent the majority of their lives here in the United States—oh, they may have visited Europe, or even Asia, or Africa, but they rarely had to “live like a local,”not even for a day.

As a child, I got just a tiny taste of how much of the rest of the World lives. Many of you know about Fiji, the “island nation” in the Pacific? Fiji is known as a “vacation haven for celebrities (read here “more rich folks”) and the super-wealthy.” I had the chance to visit Fiji when I was but seven or eight with my family. We children were not allowed to go absolutely everywhere, but we were given a pretty free hand. Well, we being who we were,  ignored the “warnings” to stay in the hotel “compound.”

Most First World folks are blissfully unaware that little island nations like Fiji (and Hawai’i) are absolutely fantastic places to grow certain crops like sugar cane and pineapple. Our venturing out into the cane fields taught us this was the case for little Fiji. Another interesting fact? At that time (in the early to mid seventies), many of the “workers” lived in little shanties among the cane they farmed.

After my short (less than a week) time in Fiji. I went on with my family to Hawai’i (where the cane fields were—by that point—managed entirely differently and the locals were relatively affluent by World standards), and after being there for a time, joined the U.S. Air Force.

Well, being young and stupid, I met and subsequently married a young Korean lady. We had a couple of great kids, but in an attempt to make her life better and happier, I sought a remote assignment to Korea, where—because she was a Korean national at the time—she could go and be with me. This all happened in the early eighties,

While we were there, I saw yet again what it meant to be among the World’s poor (certainly by comparison to the denizens of the U.S. in any case).

But the funny little “punch line” to this “joke,” is that the folks that I got to see, meet, and deal with were still relatively well off. You see, the countries I got to visit (you could argue “live in” for Korea, but I didn’t live nearly the same life as a local would have done there) were at least marginally capitalist at the time.

If you compare that to the parts of the World who were under dictatorial regimes, or who were intentionally Socialist or supposedly Communist, you see just how much better off even those places were and are.

Take a moment to pull up “night images” of North and South Korea from space on your “horribly slow Internet service” (that many in the world have little to no idea about) if you want to see an example.

Literally, the lights all but stop as you go north of the 38th parallel (the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ, wherein sits Panmunjom, or the “peace village”). You see them marginally in places like Pyongyang (For those unaware, North Korea’s capital city), but even there, there are “rolling blackouts” and power rationing. The first thing I would promise, is that the people in North Korea without lights at night are not so because they desire to be so. Nor do they run around with grumbling tummies (wanting nutrition) because they’re “trying to watch their girlish figures.”

The South, comparatively, is a regular Christmas tree of light. To be fair, South Korea has grown substantially  since I last visited (I left in 1990, when companies like Samsung, Kia, Dae Woo, Hyundai,  and Goldstar (whence came LG, or as it once was called “Lucky Goldstar”).

Now consider that many South Koreans don’t live at the same standard of living as the “poor” in the U.S.

How do you suppose the average standard of living in China, or Cuba looks by comparison to relatively poor folks in South Korea?

The best part? The thing so many detractors where Capitalism is concerned fail to see, is that the thing that is most likely to raise the poor out of their poverty around the World is Capitalism. Look at virtually any country where Capitalism is the norm and even in those where “Crony Capitalism” is the standard way of doing business, you’re typically far better off than in those where Communism, Socialism or some other form of despotism rules the day. If you happen to be in a place where “Crony Capitalism” is not so much the norm, but where Capitalism is the standard, all the better!

To “condense” this little essay, allow me to say this one thing. Show me a country where the general standard of living is high, and you will show me a place where Capitalism is the reigning philosophy supported by the government.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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