Friday, March 03, 2006

Jealousy in the Third World

Jealousy in the Third World.

Jealousy is a basic human emotion, and it generally manifests itself in situation where one observes other people having things that one does not have, and/or living a lifestyle that one cannot afford to live.

Jealousy is a strong emotion, however; in the First World countries it rarely assumes destructive proportions unless you find yourself among the really poor and deprived underclass which is not the First World mainstream. In the Third World, jealousy can be very powerful since the Underclass is the mainstream, and you as an expat can become its victim if you are not careful enough.

How so? Well, in the First World, opportunities are generally available to a greater percentage of the population than in the developing countries. Student loans, grants, scholarships and other such programs usually enable the person to move from being poor to, at least, becoming middle class. In addition to that, many First World countries are privacy minded- “Mind Your Own Business!” is the motto there. Also, religions and life philosophies in many a developed country teach people to change and improve themselves and instill in one a spirit of confidence. Therefore, if one becomes jealous of achievements of another, it more often than not serves as a healthy impetus to improve oneself. “You just wait! Next year I will have a bigger car than yours, and I will buy a house better than yours“. Such a healthy expression of envy is actually good as it makes people work harder, and, usually, many opportunities and resources are in place to help one ‘push himself up in the world’.

In many developing nations, that may not be the case. Social classes are much more static and moving from one stratum of society to another is a great difficulty for most people, if not an outright impossibility. There are few scholarships, no student loans or grants and the rich get education, while the poor are destined for only minimal improvement of their lot. In addition to that, many religious and philosophical teachings there, as well as the whole culture are very much focused on preserving the status quo. Being ambitious is seen as a betrayal to one’s proletarian ideals and as a gesture that one is abandoning one’s community of poor people and is trying to become better than others. The rich also see such upstarts as a threat to the hegemony that they hold over the lower classes- a source of labor to them. Therefore, an average poor person in a poor nation may not even conceive of the desire to improve oneself. And even if he/she does, the money that one obtains will swiftly be sucked out of one’s pocket as poor relatives and friends who are not studying, and who do not have good jobs will be there waiting for a handout. Hence, someone who manages to get an education will forever be burdened by a group of other indigent people whom one has to help continuously. Poor people in the Third World often have large families and no money to feed them. A son that got a degree and is working now will see his salary melt away as he now supports a large extended household. His money will be vanishing like water poured into the sand.

Jealousy in the Third World is many times more powerful than in the First one. There, it emanates from people who were never taught that they could in fact develop themselves, take care of themselves and make money. “You are better than, me? I will destroy you! “ They seethe with the resentment for the rich of their own country and see them as absolute overlords whose lifestyle they can never even remotely hope to achieve. Then, revolutions take place; the former slaves get into the government after destroying the local rich and, in turn, become lords who rule over the poor classes with vengeful cruelty. The paupers become tyrants and the society continues as it was before- the few rich at the top, a huge number of hopelessly poor at the bottom with a tiny ‘middle class’ which is never sure of its identity and position in society, and which receives a dose of scorn from both the rich and the poor each one thinking it as part of the other.

When a First World expat decides to live in such a developing country, he/she will need to be extremely careful. There have been cases of expats settling in such Third World countries, hoping for a happy life thereafter in a cheap tropical paradise, only to become targets of jealousy and antipathy. They would be caught between the rock and the hard place. The poor would see them as unwelcome invaders who have come to exploit them, and the ruling classes would see them as a menace to their status and the power which they held over the poor.

A rich foreign man with a big car and a beautiful local wife would, on occasions, end up being killed along with his spouse (who would be called a traitor who has sold out to a wealthy foreigner) by the masses of the deprived jealous natives in extreme cases, but most often than not, constantly hit for money by the “lazy” indigenous neighbors who
never even dream of paying them back. They would end up cheated, overcharged, and often treated with derision by the locals. All based on nothing but intense jealousy.

In some cases, there were expat men who dreamt of opening businesses with their wives and helping the local community. These would be seen as unwanted competition and threat to its domination of some kingpin who would then resort to the services of a local hit man to do away with the foreigner and his wife. Often, both the rich and the poor do not want their status quo to be disturbed in such places. The poor do not like those richer than them to come over, raise prices and steal their women from them, and the moneyed classes do not want the new parvenue to treat the poor better than they do because this way the downtrodden masses will lose their spirit of obedience to those who are well-off.

So what is the solution?

If your fate or choice has landed you in such a place, you will have to do your best to keep a low profile and try to pass yourself off as someone who is just passing through or who is living in the place temporarily even if one remains there forever. If one wants to do business, one should try and do it in larger urban areas which resemble the developing world, and where one can get lost in the crowd. If one decides to live in smaller, more rural places, one should only have small businesses staffed by local people and be as unnoticeable as one can be. Under no circumstances should one sell out all of his possessions back in one’s home country and move to the Third World completely. A base in a solid First World country to which one can revert if things turn sour because of the Third World jealousy must be maintained at all times. And, while you are in the developing foreign land, talk softly, smile a lot, look poor, sometimes even complain about how difficult business is for you, and keep to yourself as much as you can.

Another good thing that many such expats do is starting businesses in tourist areas where they blend in with the endless ebb and flow of tourist crowds. There, they remain largely undistinguishable from temporary visitors and obtain money from sources outside the country. But even there, you always have to be careful. Jealousy may still raise its green head at any time and harm you in ways you may never know.

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