Poor People Are Happy

SWPL: “Money is the root of all evil. It doesn’t bring happiness.”

Roosh: “Please explain.”

SWPL: “I visited Bolivia recently and did a tour of the salt flats. On the way over we stopped at a village that was extremely poor. I felt bad at first, but then these little kids ran up to me with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen in life. They were covered in dirt and grime, even on their faces, and were wearing tattered clothing, but I swear, they were the happiest human beings I’ve met.”

R: “Did the kids want anything from you?”

SWPL: “Yes, they stuck their hands out. I gave them some chocolate.”

R: “Did the chocolate satisfy them?”

SWPL: “Did it ever! They were so happy, ripping open the packaging and shoving it down their little mouths. It was amazing how such a simple item gave them so much pleasure. If I gave you chocolate you probably wouldn’t even be half as happy.”

R: “Is there anything else you could have given them that would have made them even happier?”

SWPL: “Um, I don’t know.”

R: “How about new pairs of pants?”

SWPL: “I guess. Their pants did seem old.”

R: “How about if you constructed a new house with air conditioning. Would that have made them happier than your chocolates?”

SWPL: “You’re just being silly now.”

R: “I’m asking you hypothetically. Of course I know you are not able to build a new house for them.”

SWPL: “Okay then, yes, I guess making them a house with air conditioning would make them happier than chocolates. It was mighty hot and they didn’t even have fans.”

R: “How about if you gave them $10,000. They could use that to build a new house, eat for a year, and buy as much chocolate as they want. Would that make them happy?”

SWPL: “Yes. I think $10,000 would make anyone happier.”

R: “But you said they don’t need money to be happy.”

SWPL: “Now you’re twisting my words. I said that without money they are capable of being more happy than people who are richer than them.”

R: “Are you richer than them?”

SWPL: “Yes.”

R: “Are those kids, and by extension, their families, happier than you?”

SWPL: “Yes, I believe so.”

R: “What is the reason that they are happier than you?”

SWPL: “Because they are better able to appreciate the little things in life that we, in our fast-paced capitalist lifestyle, fail to appreciate.”

R: “Do you want to be happier than you are now?”

SWPL: “Yes, of course.”

R: “So when do you plan on moving to the Bolivian dirt village?”

SWPL: “Don’t be stupid.”

R: “Why wouldn’t you move if it would make you happier?”

SWPL: “I can’t. I have my family and friends here. I have responsibilities.”

R: “What responsibilities?”

SWPL: “I have student loans.”

R: “The student loan companies will chase you to Bolivia?”

SWPL: “I can’t just move there!”

R: “So you don’t want to be happier than you are now?”

SWPL: “I want to, but the culture is different. I would have to learn Spanish.”

R: “Learning a language is a small price to pay for being happy. I’m sure with even your meager savings you can live a year in the dirt village without having to work.”

SWPL: “But… the village doesn’t have internet.”

R: “You need internet to be happy?”

SWPL: “I’ve gotten used to it. Look, if I was born in the dirt village I would have been happier, but since I was born in America, I can’t just go live there.”

R: “Are things like plumbing, air conditioning, supermarkets, and clean clothes important to you?”

SWPL: “Yes.”

R: “It is to me, too. I wouldn’t live in the dirt village. It would make me less happy.”

SWPL: “See that’s what you don’t understand. It makes them happier. They are used to the village and can appreciate living with less stuff.”

R: “If you gave them a choice between living in the dirt village and swapping lives with you in the suburbs, with its fast-paced capitalist lifestyle, which would they pick?”

SWPL: “They would want to live here, but it’s because they don’t know better. They would wind up being less happy than in the dirt village.”

R: “They wouldn’t be happier with plumbing, internet, and less dirt?”

SWPL: “Okay, well, maybe a little happier at first. Then they would get bored.”

R: “Being bored with something, or taking it for granted, reduces your happiness levels so that you long for poverty?”

SWPL: “I don’t know.”

R: “How much time did you spend with the dirt children?”

SWPL: “About ten minutes.”

R: “And during that time you were able to evaluate their needs, their desires, and then conclude that they enjoyed living in dirt housing with the most basic of sustenance?”

SWPL: “Their smiles were very real to me.”

R: “I have no doubt that they were, but if I saw a person of wealth 1000 times greater than that of myself, my smile would be genuine as well as I stuck my hand out. I’d hope that that person would pity me and give me just a tiny percentage of his wealth so that I could get a taste of his more comfortable and pleasurable lifestyle.”

SWPL: “They don’t need that lifestyle.”

R: “Do you? Do you need the iPhone that you keep staring at every couple of minutes?”

SWPL: “I mean…”

R: “Is it possible that you interpreted their smiles incorrectly, and that they are indeed living a life which, had you lived it, would be close to suffering?”

SWPL: “I may have misinterpreted things.”

R: “You are not the first person to tell me that poor people are happy. Do you have an idea of why this is?”

SWPL: “I don’t.”

R: “It’s a self-defense mechanism.”

SWPL: “Explain.”

R: “It is inherently unfair that you have 1000 times more than another human being who, through the bad fortune of having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time, will never have a comfortable life that you take for granted, no matter how hard they work. If in your travels you were to see this and accept it for what it is, you would break down in tears at the horrible plight of many billions of people on this earth, but when you convince yourself—in fact delude yourself—into believing that poor people who live on $1 a day are happier than you, you are able to push away this realization so that your travels are uninterrupted by the cruelness of humanity, so that you can upload photos of dirt children on Facebook and receive the likes from your friends who comment on how happy the children seem to appear.”

SWPL: “I didn’t think of it that way.”

R: “If you were unable to trick yourself into thinking that hungry children are happier, how do you think that would change your travel plans?”

SWPL: “I would stop visiting poor countries, I guess.”

R: “Or you would just close your eyes to the poverty, as I have. Poverty is not your fault, but spreading the idea that poverty is happiness, or is somehow romantic, is an insult to those who are experiencing it.”

SWPL: “But I feel guilty that I have so much more than those kids.”

R: “Do you really?”

SWPL: “Yes. I wish they weren’t so poor.”

R: “How much money do you have saved up?”

SWPL: “Only $2,000. It’s my emergency fund.”

R: “Poor people live in perpetual emergency. Donate that money to a poor village. Let it go to their water and food. Do it now if you care about them!”

SWPL: “I can’t. I need it.”

R: “They need it, too.”

SWPL: “But I worked hard for it!”

R: “I thought you wished they weren’t so poor.”

SWPL: “Yeah but…”

R: “Do you still think poor people are happy?”

SWPL: “Not really.”

R: “Are you going to do anything about their plight?”

SWPL: “No.”

R: “And neither am I. Now go forth and continue your search for happiness. Work hard and pay off those student loans. Maybe soon you can afford another vacation.”

The above was inspired from the Bolivian chapter in my book A Dead Bat In Paraguay.

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