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Forum: Gouyave Talk
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"Nah Leaving": Poverty vs. Poorness.

In case Dr. Ben Carson doesn't understand, there is a huge difference between "poorness"(my term for being poor) and poverty. You are in poverty if you have no choice but to scour the garbage dump to eat a meal. You are poor because you have very little money to buy anything. At least that's the way I define it.

The people of Gouyave during the time of my teenage years illustrated my point very vividly.

Miss La like the rest of Gouyave, was dirt poor. Whatever money she might have had came from the sale of provisions that she grew in "her garden." An occasional supplemental income sometimes came from her sons and daughter who by that time had migrated to England and Trinidad. Other than that, Miss La lived as most of us lived. There was always enough ground provisions and fish, or 1/4lb salt-fish to make a tasty meal plus lime buds or similar buds and leaves to provide her with "bush tea." So she never had to go searching garbage dumps for want of anything.

But that was in Gouyave, in Grenada, and I daresay the entire Caribbean. Transfer Miss La to New York City, or London, and her life would have been an entirely different story.

Miss La had no formal educational skills. She frequently called on me to read and respond to the letters that her children had written her. In New York she couldn't go to "her garden" for provisions. Nor could she depend on her neighbors to help with a few jacks or flying fish, or even a meal. That's just not the way things are in those big American and European cities which explains the poignancy of Denise Plummer’s calypso “Nah Leaving.” That meant she would have had to be a domestic baby sitter; and if she couldn't find such a job, she would then be in big trouble staring down the dismal road of abject poverty way beyond being poor.

I shiver when I hear of the gruesome crimes committed in New York and other big cities. I deliberately avoid going to or being in some areas. Yet out here in small towns like Montclair/West Orange, fear of an area or areas are never a factor in my decision to attend or not to attend.

Why then do people tend to behave so differently depending on the location in which they are? If poverty is a "state of mind" as Dr. Carson contends, why do people in poverty behave so differently when placed in different settings?
Instead of assuming that poverty is a state of mind, maybe we should view poverty as a reaction to the elements that surround us. Change the location and its very likely that an entirely different mindset will emerge.
We own nothing and we appear to be society's discards, therefore why should we care about proper behavior? Anything goes, as living becomes a dog eat dog adventure.

It saddens me even more so, when I hear about Gouyave, Grenadian or Caribbean folks living in these big cities descending into the pits of hell, while that would have been the last thing on their minds were they still back home. Indeed there is so much more meaning in “Nah Leaving” if you were to really, really listen, than just a great soca song to dingolay and get down with. You will understand why Ms. Plummer would rather live even poor, among poor people in the Caribbean, than live poor only to descend into poverty in the midst of the wealthiest cities in the world.