Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Impossible Invisibility of the Poor


The poor are many: that is why it is impossible to forget them,” wrote Roberto Sosa, a Honduran poet. Yet somehow, daily, we manage to do the impossible.

I am living in one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere where, according to the World Bank, 1/3rd of the people live in extreme poverty, 1/3rd in relative poverty, and only the final 1/3rd are not poor (a cut off made at only $15 per day).

Despite 2/3rds of Hondurans living in poverty, it is fully possible to spend a week or a month here without interacting with them. The city where I live parts neatly into “two Tegucigalpas” – in which 2/3rds of its residents ride public buses, buy their food in open markets, and buy their clothes used in the less-safe corners of the capital. The upper third, meanwhile, drive SUVs or sedans, buy their food in air conditioned supermarkets, and go shopping for clothes and household goods in enormous, brightly-lit malls.

In the evenings when 2/3rds of the country has returned home, the upper third goes to theaters, museums, and galleries where they only see each other. The poor do not live in their neighborhoods. They do not go to their churches. They do not work in their offices except perhaps as a sanitation worker or a security guard.

This is, of course, not a uniquely Honduran problem. Earlier this year, a resident of San Francisco (dubbed a “tech bro”) wrote an open letter to the mayor in which he wrote that he resented the way the worlds of the rich and the poor too often touched. He “shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day,” he wrote.

Though most are less publicly callous, few in the middle and upper classes in the States commonly share spaces with people who are poor. We live in an age of fast highways, comfortable vehicles, and air conditioned malls where it is entirely possible to screen ourselves from any vision of destitution. In this splitting world, those who can avoid the ugly side of poverty generally like to do so. A world without the marginalized feels more clean and comfortable, less complicated, less guilty.

Poverty is uncomfortable. It is often ugly. It smells bad. It is unglamorous and desperate and challenging. I could list dozens of examples. The bus is crowded and takes twice as long as a car. The open-air markets are chaotic, and they don’t sell peanut butter or oregano or the other familiar tastes. The man without shoes who badgers me on my way to church each Sunday holds his hand out and shouts, “Money!”, which does not endear him to me.

I live in a community in Honduras where the 1/3rd who are “not poor” would rarely find reason to enter. Water runs only twice per month. Sewers drain into the street and most people won’t walk outside after dark. This has allowed me to live alongside people in the middle third, those living in “relative poverty” – those who are getting by, but always on the edge. I live alongside these people, but not truly with them. On weekends, I go to parks or coffee shops, to the same museums and galleries of the rich. I am able to experience relative poverty only to the extent that I want to – after that, I buy the food I want to eat and go on my small vacations.

On the other hand, those living in extreme poverty, the 2.5+ million of them here, are invisible to me. They are the ones whose land is likely unregistered, whose identities even may be unregistered. They live tucked away in the hillsides eking out a living from cornfields and beans. They are sleeping on the streets in the city because there are no services for the homeless or mentally ill. They are children selling peanuts to cars at intersections or juggling wads of cloth lit on fire. Occasionally when I venture downtown I will notice their hands held out, but other times they blend into the background and I don’t see even that.

This is the real impossibility, not that it is impossible to forget the poor, but that it is all too easy to do so. The poor on this earth are many yet they are constantly forgotten, even though we live side by side.

This results in a city that doesn’t consider the needs of the poorest, even when they are “many,” when they outnumber those with means. Though there are always exceptions, most of the 2/3rds don’t vote. They don’t write petitions. They don’t run for office or go on the news. Those in power must go out of their way to incorporate them, which will always be a concession of some power, of some sense of decorum, of some desire for the easy, neat, and tidy.

But the alternative to this is a willful forgetfulness – privileging the comfort of the few over the rights of the many to be seen, to be engaged, to be acknowledged as neighbors. This is what we must call impossible. This is what we must not forget.

The Poor (translated)
by Roberto Sosa

The poor are many: that is why it is impossible to forget them

Without a doubt, in the dawn they glimpse building after building
Where they would like to make a home with their children

Their shoulders can bear the coffin of a star.
They can destroy the air like furious birds,
Covering the sun.

But not knowing these gifts, they enter and exit through mirrors of blood.
They walk slowly and are slow to die.
That is why it is impossible to forget them. 

10 comments:

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  3. Simple, direct, profound.
    Thank you! Please don't stop writing.

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  4. Simple, direct, profound.
    Thank you! Please don't stop writing.

    ReplyDelete
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  7. السلام عليكم عملائنا الكرام مما لا شك فيه ان كلنا نعلم اهميه برك السباحه والمسابح فى حياتنا لما لها من اهميه كبيره جدا فى حياتنا اليوميه خاصه
    فى فصل الصيف تعد المسابح من افضل وسائل الترفيه في وقتنا المعاصر حيث ان الاطفال والكبار وكل الناس يستمتعون بالمسبح عندما يكون الجو حار لى يخفضو من درجه حراره الجسم والاسمتاع بالحياه هناك انواع كثيره جدا واشكال متنوعه من المسابح اصبحت فى بيوتنا بكثره خاصه هذه الايام واص
    بحت منتشره جدا فكل منا يعلم اهميتها ومن ثم ذالك يجب علينا الاعتناء بالمسابح والحفاظ عليها من اى شوائب او جراثيم لان الشخص عندما يقوم بالنزول في المسبح فأن مسام الجلد تتفتح وبالتالى عند وجود اى شوائب او جراثيم فسوف تقوم بأختراق مسام الجلد وتسبيب الكثير من الامراض التي لم نشعر
    بها إلا علي المدي البعيد لذالك يجب علينا جميعا الاعتناء بالمسابح للحفاظ على صحتنا وصحه اولادنا من اي امراض ولكي يستمتعوو بصحه جيده كانت المسابح فى قديم الزمان غير منتشره كما فى وقتنا المعاصر وذالك بسبب الخوف من الفيروسات التى كانت منتشره والخوف من البلهارسيا........الخ

    اما في وقتنا الحاضر لم يعد منزل لا يحتوى علي مسبح الا قليل جدا اصبحت المسابح منتشره جدا فى الفلل والاماكن التى يوجد فيها درجات حراره عاليه للتلطيف من درجه حراره الجو والاستمتاع ب الجو اوصيكم جمعيا الحفاظ علي صحتكم من كل سوء وشر _ كل ما عليكم احبتي الكرام ان تتواصلو مع شركتنا شركه زين لتنظيف
    المسابح حيث ان شركتنا تعد من افضل الشركات المصنفه فى تنظيف المسابح تواصلو معانا للتخلص من اى شوائب او بكتريا داخل المسبح كما ان شركتنا تمتلك افضل واحدث وسائل التنظيف وافضل المكينه والعماله الماهره المدربه هناك بعض الاشياء التى تقوم بها شركتنا اثناء التنظيف اولا

    تقوم شركتنا بتفريغ المياه من المسبح
    ثانيا....
    نقوم بوضع بعض المواد الكماويه الأمنه على صحتنا وصحه اطفالنا
    ثالثا....
    نقوم بتنظيف البقع التي توجد فى جدران المسبح
    رابعا...
    نقوم بوضع بعض وسائل التنظف على مواسير الصرف للتخلص من اى رواسب
    خامسا...
    نقوم برش المسبح بماده جاليه للتخلص من الاشياء المترسبه على حواف المسبح
    ..............إلخ

    هناك امر اخر تقدمه شركتنا لعملائنا الكرام وهو عرض خصومات هائله فى فصل الصيف وضمان تنظيف المسبح

    وايضا هناك بعض الاشياء يجب علينا تجنبها من اجل الحفاظ على المسبح نظيف وأمن من اي شوائب وهى

    1_عدم ترك اوراق الشجر تغرق فى المسبح وتترسب
    2_عدم ترك مياه المسبح مده طويله بدون تغير
    3_عند الصرف نقوم بوضع ماده منظفه لتعقيم المسبح
    4_عدم ترك اكياس او اوراق متسخه تغرق فى المسبح

    كل ما عليكم عند وجود اي عطل او مشكله او رواسب فى المسبح عليكم بالاتصال بشركه زين لتظيف المسابح المصنفه من افضل الشركات عالميا والتى تقدم افضل خدمه متميزه لعملائنا الكرام وتقدم افضل الخصومات ووسائل التنظيف المستورده كما ان شركتنا تقوم بالوصول لكم فورا عند التواصل مع مندوب الشركه على الارقام الظاهره
    وايضا تقدم شركتنا عند التظيف جميع الاشياء ولا تتطلب من العميل اي شئ تقوم شركتنا بتنظيف المسبح على اكمل وجه سواء كان كبير او صغير مهما كانت مساحته شركتنا تضمن لك ان تستلم المسبح بعد التنظيف على اكمل وجه وكأنه جديد

    تقوم شركتنا بالتواصل مع عملائنا الكرام فى الحال كما ان الشركه تقدم رقم خاص بالشكاوى من العماله المنظفه عند التقصير فى اي شئ عند التنظيف

    عليكم جميعاً عملائنا الكرام التواصل مع مندوبين الشركه للحصول على مسبح نظيف وكأنه يبدو جديد شركه ليست الشركه الوحده المنظفه للمسابح ولكن هى المتميزه فى تنظيفها نذكركم بأن شركتنا تقدم افضل العروض خاصه فى فصل الصيف لا تهملو فى صحتكم وصحه اولادكم وسارعو بالاتصال بشركه زين لتنظيف المسبح وسوف يصلون اليكم فى الفور......دمتم فى سعاده وصحه جيده وحماكم الله ورعاكم من كل شر عملائنا الكرام
    (والسلام عليكم ورحمه الله وبركاته)

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