Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Are YOU a Hoarder? Are You Sure? (Part III of a Four Part Series)

The Poor People of PNG

We realize this series has become a bit long in the tooth but we felt it absolutely essential to lay a solid foundation of understanding before moving forward with this discussion.  We’ve already touched on the issue of how much savings for retirement is enough and we will answer the question completely in Part IV.

Now we want to explore the second article Craig penned regarding his interview with the poor people of PNG.  If you haven’t already read parts I and II of this series, please do so now and follow the links to the two articles penned by Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians titled How Much Savings for Retirement is Enough? and The Rich and Poor: My Interview With The Poor People of PNG.  Both articles are relatively short but vitally important in answering the topical question of…Are YOU a Hoarder? Are You Sure?

Craig, as we’ve stated previously, is a missionary evangelist in Papua, New Guinea (PNG).  He recently, as an experiment, invited a group over to his house to explore the conundrum between the rich and the poor.  It is an extremely interesting story and offers an abundance of understanding concerning the interrelationships between our beliefs, choices, and consequences.  Craig interviewed this group as he was curious about how the poor people he interacts with perceive his standard of living, as compared to theirs, what their attitudes were about money, how they defined or described the “rich,” what they thought they needed to do to be rich, whether being rich was a worthy goal, the advantages and disadvantages of being poor, and what they expected of the rich when it comes to benevolence extended them.

Craig, during this interview, discovered that none in the group considered themselves rich and since, as is the case in most third world countries, there is no middle class in PNG, the financial condition or status of the group being interviewed automatically defaulted to being poor.  In many societies, being poor is also attributed with being disadvantaged, oppressed, or victimized by the greed and ambition of others who have more wealth.

One of the first questions asked of the group is how they would describe or define a rich person.  The answer was most telling.  They described rich people as generally putting in a lot of time, effort and hard work in the garden.  If their descriptions were an accurate assessment of many of those who are rich in that country, it is assumed that the rich labor in the fields planting, caring for, and harvesting food for the consumption of their families along with a surplus of food to be taken to the market to be sold for money or traded directly for other goods and services needed now or in the future.  Could the “rich” logically be called “hoarders,” in this instance, since they produced more food than they directly consumed?  According to the dictionary definition, these “rich” people qualify as “hoarders.”

The group being interviewed considered themselves “poor,” but they expressed that they valued their free time or leisure. Their free time and leisure to spend with family is obviously important to them.  When questioned about how much of their disposable income went for food, the answer was around 99 percent.  Obviously, they valued their leisure time much more than they valued the exorbitant amount of money they were paying for food grown by others.  We deducted, from the interview, that the rich grew their own food while the poor bought their food at the grocery store or local market.  Obviously, in terms of cost, growing their own food would have left the poor with much more disposable income for other desired items to include luxuries more commonly associated with the rich people of PNG who grew their own food and took their surplus to market.

The poor people Craig interviewed have chosen to conserve or hoard their physical energy, in the form of leisure time, contrasted to the rich who’ve chosen to forego some of their leisure activities while spending their surplus physical energy reserves in the planting, caring for and harvesting of food for personal and commercial uses.  The rich were basically building a storehouse of wealth to use for future needs when their bodies aged and they no longer had an abundance of physical energy to expend toiling in the garden.

The poor, on the other hand, hoarded their abundance of physical energy when they were young with little hope of prosperity in the present or the future.  Although these people are poor, in financial terms, the fact cannot be overlooked that these poor people are “rich” in leisure.  Some in the group expressed that some in their families are reluctant to work harder to make a better life for themselves because of family freeloaders who are mooching off their backs.  Apparently, they’ve not considered kicking these moochers off the island or at least out of their households even though they recognize it is one of the things possibly interfering with their aspirations to improve their standard of living.  Or, it could also be an excuse or justification for their choice of leisure over being more ambitious. In either case, it appears that we can have unique cultural expectations within families that can influence our beliefs, choices, and consequences.

In Part IV of…Are YOU a Hoarder? Are You Sure?, we will get to the essence of answering the question the series title poses and you may be very surprised at the answer we offer.

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