Cultural Reflections

By Ryan L.

Poverty is a global, constant problem, one that will not be solved anytime soon. No matter what the country’s stage of development, be it a third-world backwater dictatorship, a first-world western republic, or that nebulous area in-between that China seems to be occupying, there are the haves and have-nots. This short paper will focus on poverty with an individual, person to person lens.

On an individual scale, poverty is seen most visibly in big cities, in areas where the conflux of humanity has grown and swelled to historic proportions not previously seen by this planet.  On any given street you might have a successful young entrepreneur walking past hundreds or thousands of his fellow countrymen. Right across the street, there may be the opposite side of this spectrum. A bum. A hobo. A vagabond, a poor person, the less fortunate. In short, the have-nots.

In America, these people have no recourse but to rely on their fellow people, either by panhandling, or performing, or going to one of the numerous homeless shelters scattered across the cities. In China, this is not so. Or at least, in a way, this is not so. There is still pan-handling, performing, and third-person assistance, but there is something else. You see, what I have seen in China is a brilliant innovation, one that serves multiple uses, multiple causes, and one that captures memories reminiscent of the kind of hardworking, pioneering, elbow-grease kind of spirit that made America a powerhouse in the first two world wars.

Here, in China, the poor can collect plastic bottles and turn them in for cash. Maybe I’m reading too much in to this, but I think this is an important idea. In developing countries such as China, often little thought is given to the environment. At the same time, the focus of government and the business industry is on making profits, not spreading the wealth around to the less fortunate. This simple idea is in place in America, but to a much lesser extent.

In America, it only serves as a tool to encourage the dwindling middleclass to not be so wasteful and to recycle a bit, but it is on such a small scale that only the environmentally enthusiastic and financially secure choose to do it. Here in China, it is on such a large and successful scale that not only does it provide a small incentive for the rising middle-class to recycle, but it also allows those who have nothing to create something for themselves, to survive by depending on their own hands and feet. This is monumentally important to keeping up a forward-thinking and hardworking mentality, especially important to the future success of developing countries such as China. As the basis of all government is the people (especially true in a democratic country, such as China), this kind of spirit is key to the future successes of the country as a whole. And right now, the future is looking bright indeed.

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