Squatter Problem LO19848

Rol Fessenden (Rf9@compuserve.com)
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 15:57:45 -0500

Replying to LO19826 --


I was surprised by your passion on this question. I wonder if my
digression simply seemed too irrelevant to you. I am unsure. My
dictionary says a squatter is one who "settles on land, especially public
or unoccupied land, without right or title. Also, one who settles on
public land under regulation by the government, in order to get title to
it." In the 19th century US, we called squatters by another name. We
called them pioneers. Can you share your definition, please.

We are getting into issues of politics here, but perhaps politics are
relevant to learning as well. My suggestion is that we can look at
squatting as an outgrowth of poverty -- perhaps -- but we can also look at
it as an outgrowth of our values about land ownership. If no one owns
land, then squatting disappears. Perhaps if no one owns land, poverty
disappears also, but I am unsure of that. You may think I am being silly,
but I do not intend to be. I think I can make a strong case that it will
be easier to change our values about land ownership than it will be to
eliminate poverty.

Let me digress even further, and see if this comes back to the issues
relevant to LO. Having visited or lived in many parts of the world, I
have observed two kinds of poverty, one in the US and other rich
countries, and the other found in the rest of the world. Statistically
speaking, people in poverty in the US have a house with an average of 2
rooms per person. They own a car. They have a TV (mostly color), phone,
washing machine, microwave, and many other luxurious gadgets. They eat a
rich diet with 2 times the minimum allowance of protein. They eat meat in
excess of 4 times a week. I almost forgot to mention they have indoor
plumbing, indoor toilets, and electricity. They qualify as healthy, and
they live in excess of 70 years.

In the poor countries of the world, 6 or more people live in one room,
probably with no windows and no doors. They eat only rice and vegetables.
There is no electricity, running water, and therefore no gadgets. They
work 7 days a week, dawn to dusk, starting at age 8 or so. Average
lifespan is frequently under 50. Now tell me truthfully, do both of these
sound equally poor? I don't think so, and yet it is defined this way. I
agree that there is inequity in the US, but most of what we call poverty
does not qualify if brought to the world stage.

And despite this low level of poverty by world standards, we do not
approach being a LO in this country. Other cultures where poverty is low
and inequity is less than in the US -- the Scandinavian countries -- also
show no signs of approaching LO status. So I think it is premature to
draw the conclusion that LO depends on elimination of poverty. This seems
to be more a matter of political belief than a matter of supportable


Rol Fessenden

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