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Excellent travelogue!

But travelers need to be careful with conclusions like this as well:

Some people in southern Africa are living with less than 1$ per day, and are doing just fine - because their value, or capital if we must, does not rest in money. And some people in Africa have already consciously rejected the western obsession of monetising each aspect of life, including their happiness.

After much travel in work in less industrialized countries a decade ago I had also come to many of the same thoughts and questions about poverty and our own cultural biases regarding wealth and poverty that you have. I once voiced them while in a discussion as a guest on an Egyptian TV talk show about the topic of poverty, development, and Western expectations. A video of an educated, European woman who had traveled to Africa framed the discussion where she commented on how, with none of the things that Europeans "need," so many of the so-called poor she had met still laughed and were genuinely happy. I noted how I had a similar experiences and thoughts about my own travels, expressing what I thought would be a sympathetic criticism of our extremely materialist "First World" values compared to many of the so-called less developed regions of the world.  

But my supposedly sympathetic comment was met with unexpected scorn by the Egyptian talk show host, a man whose brother had been imprisoned and tortured by the Egyptian government. "Only a privileged white person could think so absurdly," he chastised me. "Of course the people you met on your travels are laughing.  Compared to yours, our lives are a joke."

by santiago on Thu Aug 26th, 2010 at 04:13:54 PM EST

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