I woke this morn to a breezy, overcast day. We need rain. We wish for rain. I am getting bored watering the grass and veggie patch and flowers… I never tire of watering my roses.
It’s still kinda early – for a Sunday_. I have put on the news and opened up my computer. Mr. Kuma reclines a few feet from me. Since I woke an hour ago he has not moved much. He rolled on his back and let me scratch his belly. Lifted his head when I walked into the kitchen. But he has not gotten up. Still too early for him.
After doing the obligatory checking of family communications … Grace is staying on ICE in Gizo. My elderly mother is doing very well, despite the snow and cold in Iowa… I clicked a link to something from an old friend and fine writer, Willis Eschenbach.
Willis recently launched his own blog , https://rosebyanyothernameblog.wordpress.com/, and has been posting furiously.
What I read resonated with me, mainly due to the fact that I too have spent many noon day hours walking through, sitting in, enjoying “developing world villages”. https://rosebyanyothernameblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/going-out-in-the-noonday-sun/.
As well, it raised to my forethought an idea I have been chewing on lately… the concept of WEALTH.
What is wealth? What makes one wealthy? How do we, or can we accumulate wealth?
As Willis walked through that dusty Sahal village, the villagers perhaps saw yet another wealthy white-dude. But, really, what is wealth? Two pairs of shoes? A change of clothes? More than one simple meal a day?
In his post, Willis goes on to explain his feelings in regards to the recent US Election, free trade, and discussions with friends. It is a worthy read.
But he got me pondering the topic of wealth, again…
As fate has it, I have recently written on this topic. In discussions with both D.B., and W.E. we did the polka on and around the topic for a couple of days. It all transpired from an article I picked up and shared because I could not understand it. It was maybe too smart for me. Maybe it was written above my head…
But, when discussing “wealth” a bit of confusion is understandable. My final words in our exchange were…
I think this may an important “thing”…
People see wealth differently. The guy(s) who wrote this are taking it into common economist-speak, which is braille to me. I was kinda hoping I wasn’t the only one bamboozled by this. That I wasn’t too thick – not to get it…
I can see where wealth is something inherently “there”… like the gold in them thar hills, but it isn’t tangible or real or realised until it is dug up, and like other commodities, is not valuable unless there is a market or a standard value for it in the society. We know of aboriginal societies that thought gold was just pretty and diamonds were even prettier, but of no real value.
Lots of valuable land (I think of Bouganville) was just a big garden until someone began extracting the modern, marketable wealth buried thereunder.
I believe the views on creating poverty are worth consideration, as it is in the entire drama of colonialism. One can understand the building of the pyramids when one understands slavery and wealth centralisation ALLOWS the pyramids to happen. With out the slavery or the centralised wealth they would never have been built. And if the hills of Bouganville did not have minerals they would still be gardens.
I see most wealth creation in the modern world to be slight of hand… noting that (most) currencies are no longer pinned or standardised to either gold or silver. Without being “backed” by a tangible it is just an agreed farce.
It all starts to make me wonder, to ponder, to condense… as I walk to the bakery, ride my Segway to the butcher shop, mow the lawn or sweep the floor…
What is wealth?
I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22 years old. I “shipped out” 5 months after my 23rd birthday and two weeks before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. I carried a very fine “REI” backpack loaded with 100lbs of gear, and toted an old guitar that I could never play. (I still can’t play the guitar!)
In my pack I had a good tent, good rain gear, a very good fry pan, a light hammock, camp stove, a couple of water bladders, basic clothes, some sketch pads, books and diaries… For all practical purposes I took my camping gear to the Peace Corps with me. In my mind I was going camping for two years. I wore a pair of Red Wing work boots and packed an old pair of low-top Converse All Stars.
Before I shipped out I gave everything else I owned away.
In my pre-Peace Corps life I had been an artist. My medium was acrylic on canvas. In my life preceding my departure from the US of A I had spent most all my money, most all my wealth on art supplies. I lived then in a very small mobile-home (trailer) in a very small town in northern Iowa. My main asset was a very good stereo. I drove a 1961 Dodge (push button auto) that was not worth $300.00, but it had new tires on it, and ran well. I had a wolf, Nuke, as a room mate.
My dad got my car and my wolf. My bro-in-law got my stereo. I was planning to come back in 24 months and claim my possessions back. Not much else of value there was. Except my art. So gave that all away too. As I prepared to depart, as I visited friends and family, I gave my canvases away.
So, after I gave all I had accumulated, all the wealth I had away, I traveled to a new life where I learned what wealth was…
My first experience in a developing world village blew my simple mind!
Manebwena is on the north coast of Makira. There were probably 20 families living a short walk from the coast.
A nice river ran near the village. The sand on the beach was black. The people were friendly, even loving.
I spent 10 weeks in that village. Gave about 25% of what I owned, including the Red Wings, away. Leaving much richer than when I arrived.
Over the next couple years I visited many villages.
Some are wealthier than others… My village in Makira had been a very middle-class place. Isolated by peaks and valleys. They walked long distances to their gardens. The food was good but they worked hard for what they had.
But not all villages are created equal… I recall living on the dry side of Ngela. The weather there is such that it simply does not rain. The gardens there don’t produce a huge variety so it’s either cassava and slippery cabbage or cassava or slippery cabbage. You can augment your diet with fish but it is still cassava and slippery cabbage, which do get a bit boring after a couple of months.
When I moved to Choiseul I realised what a wealthy village is. Golly, those folks had a big island, with loads of rain and produced a plethora of great food. The variety was insane. Varieties of yam, taro, kumara. Varieties of cabbage. Varieties of coconuts.
By the time I got to Choiseul I owned little or nothing. I had retained one pair of jeans, my converse, and one good shirt. I had a couple of pairs of tattered n tired cut-offs. A few stained n ratty shirts. A good short wave radio, which was essential for remote existence. A kettle to boil water, a pot to cook rice. Still had my fry pan. I had given my guitar to a young Malaitan guy who taught me to spear fish. I thought an old guitar was worth the price to learn how to feed yourself. I used peanut butter jars as tea cups. My camping gear had been sold. My bed was a hand-woven pandanus mat with a thin mattress. I could pick up and move, carrying everything I considered Mine. (which I did when I moved from Ngela to Choiseul)
So… stepping back from my stroll down memory lane… At a young age, a tender age, I started learning about wealth.
Before that time I had been tutored in MONEY. I had learned young that if you had MONEY you got to buy what you wanted. But wealth was something different. You worked for money. But where did wealth come from?
On Choiseul I met many people who were and are still formative in my life. Of course that is where I met my wife of 33 years. As well, after meeting and marrying, Grace, we (I) decided to go live in her home village, Susuka. We lived in Susuka full-time from 1984 to 1988.
It was there that Gracie’s father, Boaz, taught me about wealth.
For Boaz, money was for “things”. Tobacco, sugar, rice. You could buy “nice” things with money.
For Boaz, wealth came from giving away.
Boaz was the head of a large and vibrant tribe.
Boaz had been born before that region of Choisuel had been “civilised”. His father, Pogoto, was one of the first in that region to accept the missionaries. Pogoto was baptised in the Methodist church somewhere around 1910. Boaz was a “big kid” then. According to Boaz, “…me close up garrem hair…”. which means he was a pubescent child when the corner between traditional and modern lifestyles was turned.
Pogoto’s father, Kapesikana, had 4 wives. Each wife gave him one son. One son was considered to be half-sense (mentally deficient). So Kapesikana divided his vast land-holding between three of his sons. The sum total of all three holdings was known as “Pandorana”. Pandorana is the name for their family lineage or tribe.
Collectively Pandorana was a very productive tribe. It still is.
Boaz was head of his own clan and boss of his own land, but he was also the leader of the collective, Pandorana.
I was incessantly amazed how hard Boaz, and his wife (Flory), worked to “share the wealth” that they created.
It was a rare day when one of the many gardens were not visited. Some gardens were close by. They’d have slippery cabbage and some root crops. Maybe some pumpkins or snake beans. Some gardens were high on the hills. Some were on the banks of the many rivers. When Grace and I lived full-time in Susuka we managed three distinct gardens… one in the hills, one on the bank of a small river, and one in a sago forest.
The logic of many gardens is very simple… if you have one garden and it floods, or the pests get it or the winds knock everything down, you starve.
Boaz and Flory had no less than six gardens. Old gardens were being forgotten and new gardens devleoped as a matteer of course. And everyday, after a garden visit, wealth would be distributed. Wealth in the form of root crops, bananas, pomelos, oranges, nuts, cabbage, coconuts, and more.
I recall Boaz laughing about, maybe even complaining about, some of his relatives who had a habit of showing up around supper time. Sound familiar? That old friend or family member who had the timing down to perfection? They’d show up with a big smile, and an empty stomach, just as the meal is served.
But Boaz and Flory always, all ways had extra. As the meal was being prepared the young’ns would be sent trotting down the beach to deliver a hot plate of food to ol Aunty Sarah, or ol Jonathan who had polio. Every meal was shared.
Boaz and Flory were very wealthy people.
I am still pondering this topic. What is wealth?
More to later…