Friday, December 02, 2005

Feed Me

The other night’s news on TV was quite shocking to the comfortable Dutch. The bad news that hit the land was one of those ugly truths out there that many citizens of first world countries are afraid to come into terms with.

1 resident out of 10 in the Netherlands sits in dire poverty.

In the Philippines, the politicians and their cronies only benefit from the tax money. The poor will remain miserable, the middle class will always struggle, the rich will be richer and the politicians sustain corruption and are the gods of the land.

But what actually is poverty in the Netherlands? How difficult is it? Alright, let’s put this into proper perspective and lay down the basic bricks of information on the table.

There are about 16 million residents in the Netherlands. The income poverty index is € 1,103.84 NET income per month, that’s after taxes inclusive of holiday pay. That is roughly, Php 70,645.10 NET or US$ 1,304.68 NET monthly income [as of 1/12 forex] but take note, the Netherlands or Europe for that matter, has a higher standard of living. Therefore consumer items are more expensive and tax levels are also higher. The only consolation these people have is that they get social welfare benefits such as different kinds of subsidies: housing, food, tax, medical and etcetera. Thus, for a developing country standard, poverty here is not really that bad.

What is quite alarming though as confirmed during the news is that the residents who are in the poverty level group were mostly migrant foreigners. Very few were of Dutch origin and majority of these people are coming from the backgrounds of, in order: Afghans, Somalis, Iraqis, Moroccans and Turks.

One can say, what has gone wrong?

On that light, the Dutch government is currently set to task and has launched an investigation on this matter. It will take some time before a factual update will be presented but I am quite interested since I too am a foreign migrant.

In a travel board, I saw members discussing about poverty and a survey on countries and how well-fed their citizens are. The Philippines was in the top bottom with something over 40% complaining not having enough to eat.

My reaction was, “How come? The Philippines is a large country with fertile ground. No matter how poor you are, anyone can live off with what they can plant.

But lo and behold, people prefer to exile themselves in the city. They squat and gamble their so-called luck only to find themselves in the dead-end road. This is a familiar continuous cycle that happens in every developing country. There is nothing wrong with this pursuit for it is man’s nature to seek greener pastures… but until up to what point? Like what we always say back home, “Maayo pa mobalik na lang sa bukid para magtanum ug kamote!” [It’s better to go back to the mountains and plant sweet potatoes!].

A paradox though, there are some that get emotionally worked up with this kind of truth indirectly slapped onto their self-protective face. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly understand that there are individuals out there that are easily affronted, they cannot take criticism and would even cry foul at the mention of the Philippines as a third world country. Instead of thinking a mile, they chose to think a foot away with a 10 inch width glasses that fits wall to wall.

Well, countries such as Germany and Netherlands have 3% hunger complaints.

Damn whiners, these 3% cheese heads and sauerkrauts must try going to Somalia!

The Dutch national pastime is to whine like a rhino, I am sure the Germans do the same thing since both clans come from the same Aryan tribe. People can get spoiled, rather easily, and that includes you and me.

Anyway, there is no nation that has the sheer dominance of bad or good news.

I do know that many foreigners from the rich western world visiting the Philippines and other neighboring South East Asian countries are shocked with the brazen poverty and homelessness. But to me, there is nothing more depressing than seeing homeless beggars in the streets of Madrid and Paris and in the metros of London and New York. These are supposed to be highly industrialized countries with food overflowing in the table, but…

The truth can be ugly.

It’s the same as talking to your partner face to face about his bad habits that annoys you and vice versa. This does not mean that you don’t love him. You are just being honest. Like nature, there’s got to be some balance. Life is not just about wearing those rose-colored glasses; we’ve got to also smell the rotting garbage outside of our homes.

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