Our Hughes satellite service has, to be blunt, sucked over the past month or so. We were informed that our allowable download quantity had increased fifty percent, but this is useless if we can’t download anything in less time than it used to take dial-up. And it is NOT CHEAP. We pay almost $60.00 a month for this. Unfortunately, where we live, Hughes is the only option besides dial-up and sometimes it is a bit better. The reason for this rant is that I have wanted to put up a bunch of blog posts illustrated with photos, but much of the time it is almost always impossible to upload photos. Hence, some blog posts without photos.
This post is about how some of the 99% live in Mexico – not the poorest of the poor here, but ordinary people. We can live very comfortable middle class lives US-style. And I love living here. But we cannot forget how lucky we are at least in a material sense – and that if we are in the 99% in the US, we have to break down that 99% and realize that for a huge number of people who might not fall in the bottom 1% or 5% or even 50% or 60% or even 80% here (and Mexico is not considered a “poor” country internationally, but rather a “middle-income country) life is materially considerably harder than it is for, probably, everyone above the bottom 20% or so in the US. And for those in the bottom 50% here, it is harder than it is for virtually everyone in the US.
Where we live, people are not at the bottom of the heap. They are mostly working poor and some easing into the middle class. There are some wealthy people, too. Probably with more money than we have, but not more than a couple. And there are some things about this materially more difficult life that are probably better than for many people in the US who are not poor at all. In fact for a lot of poor people in our colonia, it may be better in some ways than for many middle class people in the US. Family ties often remain strong. Kids often grow up in the embrace not just of parents but of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Old people tend to be looked after. Life on the street: people hanging out, socializing, buying snacks from vendors, kids kicking battered soccer balls, community projects like getting ready for La Fiesta de la Virgin de Guadalupe, parades, holy days, even velarias, the public mourning of a death, creates a web of connection which is strong and which gives substance to life and support in times of trial.
But think how much better life here would be if people could make decent wages and work non-sweatshop hours. We learned recently that salaries in one store in a nearby town were the equivalent of less than one dollar an hour for a seventy hour work week (with time off for lunch). The owners are decent and responsible people who themselves do not live lives of luxury and in fact work very hard at ranching and poultry-raising in addition to their store. It’s not that all these jobs are physically hard: a lot of the store clerks pass much of dreary lives alone doing little more than waiting for customers.
Meanwhile, via Plan Merida the United States is sending arms and vehicles produced by US manufacturers so police and the army can make shows of being tough driving through the streets with their automatic weapons at the ready. What kind of sense does this all make? What sense does it make to pour millions (billions?) into fortifying the border with more military hardware when cattle are dying in the worst drought on record in the state of Chihuahua? What kind of sense does it make that a poorly-paid policeman carries a weapon that might cost more than his annual salary? That in the US there is so little effort made to understand that truly vast inequality cannot be controlled successfully by walls and fences and weapons of mass destruction, and that the vast inequality across borders matters as much as it does within them?
I don’t think most people expect that everyone should have exactly the same amount as everyone else: just that people should be able to feed their families, see to their kids’ education and health and have decent jobs that give them time to have meaning in their lives.