We had to take enforced custody of my nephew a few weeks ago for health reasons. If we hadn’t, he would most likely have gangrene in the bone of his ankle right now. Why did everyone assume that it was fine, when it was looking so awful? Why was he playing in knee-deep, garbage-infested water with an open wound so large?
I was reading about a psychological phenomenom that may have been at work here. There was a study undertaken that investigated a group of people living on the riverbanks downstream from a large, old unstable dam. The residents furtherest downstream, who would suffer minor property damage if the dam broke, has mild fear about the situation. The residents at the next village along were closer and would suffer more property damage. Unsuprisingly, they were more fearful about the situation. The level of fear was proportional to the proximity of the dam until the very last village, where it disappeared completely. This village lived right underneath the dam and would be completely destroyed should the dam ever fail. The researchers proposed that the constant threat of death was literally so terrifying, rather than confront the fear, the villagers chose denial. So the residents at most risk had zero fear of the threat.
Returning to the situation of my nephew. We saw the potential for Max to lose his foot. But that was not likely to happen, because we have money and thus treatment. But if we had no money, it would be tempting to ignore the problem. The situation akin to that of the villagers directly beneath the dam.
Nanay is Max’s guardian. She has seen children die from simple infections. The horror and the powerlessness make a strong case for ba ha la na, a philipino philosophy which translates: “god will provide” or “whatever”.
Philipinos are tremendously fatalistic, often to a fault. However, poverty removes choices. The less choices you have, the less options there are to take. When only a handful of choices remain, what can you do but accept your fate.
I’ve read a LOT of books on poverty and related issues, but this never really clicked for me until I saw it with my own eyes.