Thoughts on the Lack of Wealth in Tropical Areas
This is a problem that I've thought a lot about over the years. Any time that I visit a country in the caribbean, I'm amazed at the poverty that exists and puzzled as to why it exists? It's as if the industrial revolution had never happened, you still have thousands of people living in beat up old shacks, there is little to no wealth generation going on.
Obviously there is no simple answer to his question and I'm sure that a historian familiar with each country could provide a compelling historical account of why things are the way they are, I've come up with a new theory that attempts to answer the question in a general way.
Ultimately people take the actions they take in order to be happy.
In the west, it is generally accepted that having more money will make you happier. I think this belief is tied very tightly into capitalist culture and is therefore seen as being an intrinsic truth. The reality is that studies have shown that once people get to a certain level, able to satisfy their base requirements for food, shelter, etc, that beyond that, additional wealth has very little effect on happiness. That being said, most people don't pay attention to scientific studies and research, they're too busy watching Entertainment Tonight and Dancing with the Stars. What I'm getting at is that most people's minds are more filled with advertising than with scientific knowledge, and thus their behaviours can be predicted in this way.
Since the TV ads that are so prevelant in the West teach us that MORE is better, we strive to acheive this.
So this explains why we ARE in fact, so wealthy in the west, we've been trained that we'll be happy if we do this, so we strive for it. Are we, in fact, any happier? No, not really.
So, now let's look at the experience in these caribbean nations. The people that we see as we drive from the airport to the resort appear to be living in squalor, very poor, and not really doing anything about it. We imagine (based on our own set of beliefs), that since they are very poor, therefore, they must be very unhappy. While I haven't stopped to interview many of them, I imagine that this is a false assumption. Since they have grown up in a very different sort of place, haven't been indoctrinated by consumerism, they have a completely different picture of what is necessary for them to be happy. Most likely for them to be happy, they want to have some food in their stomach, and plenty of time to spend enjoying the weather. Therefore, for them to head into the city, get a factory job, spend years obtaining an impressive education, these actions do not get them closer to achieving more happiness, quite the opposite, they negatively impact these goals.
So, in effect, things are exactly as they should be. For the most part, these people who to us seem to be living in misery are in fact, exactly as happy as we are - which probably varies day-by-day, but we're incorrect to assume that they're missing the point, because since the studies show that we aren't happier when we're richer, than perhaps it's OUR goals that are misguided and perhaps we should all quit our jobs, move to a shanty town in the caribbean and get happy...
Food for thought...