Saturday, July 08, 2006

What is it to be poor?

"Ties That Bind: Hopi gift culture and its first encounter with the United States," by Peter M. Whiteley (on pp. 26-31 of the 11/04 issue of _Natural History_). online at

"Hopi leaders are supposed to be materially poor, and a wealthy individual is often criticized as _qahopi_, un-Hopi, for failing to share. Wealth and status among the Hopi is thus phrased in ritual terms; a poor person is one without ceremonial prerogatives, not one without money." (page 28)
That is an interesting statement. Has made me think, on a day I'm thinking. When are we poor, what is it to be poor?

More, later, on inventories and seeing where you are blind: how to find yourself where you are not.


annegb said...

I was thinking about this yesterday, Stephen. My sister is very poor. She is divorced and works very hard and is underpaid for the job she does. She is raising her 8 year old grandson on her own with no financial help from either of his parents.

She sees that this boy has lessons and sports and food and clothing and all the things a child needs. She is the best person I know.

She is poor. But she has a nice home, which she rents, she has nice things in her home, she has food, and a nice car.

I think in America poor is relative, because even the poorest have homes, food, cars, and most have TV's and microwaves.

An aside: I almost married a Hopi guy. We were in love, but he had a drinking problem. I will always love him in a way that you do old lovers and I think he will love me, too. Their tribal religion is very similar to ours.

Stephen said...

Good for your sister.

I grew up that way, though in trailer parks muchly, and thought that things were fine.

You've made a lot of very good points, I need to think about them.

Unknown said...


someone who feels they don't have enough.


Or someone who truly doesn't have enough, meaning they cannot maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

but that's pretty relative, isn't it. I don't know that I would be as happy without toilet paper. But isn't toilet paper the wierdest, most extravagant thing imagninable?

annegb said...

Heck, no! Toilet paper is a wonderfully convenient necessity. We went without toilet paper and I can tell you it is not pretty.

Now I only use Charmin.

But I know that I'm richer than most of the world. That's what I was trying to say--how poor is relative, considering Africa.

Stephen said...

Great post on being wealthy: