The Decay of Dignity

          “Life is not a matter of place, things or comfort; rather, it concerns the basic human rights of family, country, justice and human dignity.~Imelda Marcos

 I’ve been musing about the decay of human dignity in the United States. I can’t open a website or newspaper without reading about the lack of respect given to President Obama, the life and death of Eric Garner, and other enraged incidents that demonstrate the decay of human dignity in the United States.

However, the decline of human dignity is not isolated to the United States. It’s like a cancer spreading worldwide, eating away at the crumbling foundation of respect for our human race.

When I opened my Facebook page on Black Friday, I saw this post from Lucha Libro Bookstore in Granada, Nicaragua.

homeless boy copy

I remember the first time I saw a boy passed out at my feet in Granada, Nicaragua from sniffing glue.  I was horrified, and unsure what I could do to help.What did I do? I stepped around him.  He couldn’t have been older that 10 or 12 years of age. Glue sniffing has become a big problem for the young Nicaraguans in Granada. These posts attest to the fact: Glue Sniffing Kids in Granada and
Despair in Paradise.

In the meantime, step around him?

We have become a world of stepping around sensitive issues like immigration, homelessness, drug addiction, and poverty. I will be the first to admit that I, too, have stepped around these issues. I stepped around the boy passed out on the sidewalk in Granada. I’ve stepped around an old disabled woman begging for money in front of Pali’s grocery store. I’ve tiptoed around many sensitive issues affecting the people in Nicaragua. Why?

Maybe it is because of a sense of helplessness, or possibly a sense of fear. Maybe it is because it is such a common sight in the larger cities in Nicaragua, that I’ve become blind to the ugliness of poverty and destitution.

Is that what our world has become? Do we blindly accept the fate of the poor, homeless, and destitute? Do we blindly step around them and go about our shopping as if stepping around a cow paddy? What is wrong with us? Where has our respect for human dignity gone?

What if it were me? I try to put myself in the place of the poster. I imagine that he intended this post to be funny or ironic and now, is very sorry that he posted it because of the reaction it received. He’s probably worried that it will affect the business in the bookstore…and rightly so. Yet, I am as guilty as him because I have blindly accepted the fate of those who need help the most.

In the world of “a click and it’s posted” there is no room for irony ( if that’s what this post was intended to be) when talking about sensitive issues such as drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness. But, in this case, the irony worked against him.

In all fairness, the expat who manages the Nica-owned bookstore deleted this post after much outrage from the local Granada residents. He offered an apology to those who were offended. But, the damage has been done. Our dirty little secrets are out.

In the meantime, step around him?

I don’t want to live in a world of complacency, where we put our blinders on like the carriage horses in Granada, but what is the alternative? When the poverty is overwhelming…when the glue sniffing children are sprawled on every street corner…when the children are begging for food at every outdoor cafe…what should we do?

Step around them?

I feel… Helpless. Guilty. Overwhelmed.

The expats in Granada are angry that this original post continues to spread. They have told me to “Let it go, dammit.” “How many times can someone apologize for a mistake?” They may be right, but I can’t let it go for I am guilty of stepping around them, too. I can’t let it go until I remove my blinders… until the world no longer just steps around all the injustices in our world… until we restore human dignity and basic human rights of family and country.

In the meantime, let’s just all step around him?  What is the alternative?

34 thoughts on “The Decay of Dignity

  1. Hmmmm, I’ve owned a house at the corner of Martirio and Arsenal for 13 years, and my anecdotal observation is that the number of huelepegas has diminished greatly over the last six or seven years. Passed out kids on the sidewalk in front of my house used to be more common than not, but the last one I saw, about 2 months ago, wasn’t even a kid, he was some old guy passed out on guaro lijón. May they just went somewhere else, but I haven’t had to stop for as many passed out in the street either.

  2. Yes, we all do it, then we feel guilty as hell. I often encounter beggars at prominent tourist sites in the Algarve (often beside a church) and tell myself it’s ‘just a scam’, but I never really know. If it’s a request for a food item I’m more likely to give. But why do we have such unequal distribution in our world? It’s the vested interest of some to keep it that way, isn’t it? How can we turn this around? I really wish I knew.

  3. One thing must be remembered: honoring the essential human dignity of every human being must not mean overlooking their faults, just as respect for institutions (such as the Presidency) doesn’t require blind acceptance of every President’s policies. And there are times when protest isn’t protest at all, but only an excuse for mayhem. Being unafraid to speak the truth across the board is critical if changes are to be made.

    Coming at this from a different direction, I was thinking just this morning about the number of lies from public figures that have been revealed just this week. There seems to be an increasing tendency for elected officials, bureaucrats, and corporate spokespeople to have only three goals in mind: to keep us angry, fearful, or uninformed. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s going on in the back rooms while we fight each other.

  4. Pingback: Why Not? | Zeebra Designs & Destinations

  5. Great post and so many thought-provoking ideas and discussions to contemplate about. I work in a mental health facility in Wisconsin, and many of our residents have been homeless at some point in their lives. Some because of drug use, as a result of their schizophrenia, and some because of no job and nowhere else to live. I don’t think there is one simple answer. But, they are still human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Bravo for to anyone trying to make a difference. I can personally look back to my childhood and young adulthood and remember the few people who made an influence on me long ago. I wasn’t in trouble with the law or anything like that, but I certainly didn’t make very good life choices at that age and did need some gentle guidance which I appreciate even more now as an adult.

    The funny thing about people is, you can’t ever tell what someone has been through until you get to know them. My heart goes out to those children sniffing glue and in even worse situations. It’s heartbreaking. So thank you for even bringing this situation to light. How can people help if they don’t know that help is needed. I like your attitude and I hope that I have the opportunity to do the same when I “retire” someday.

  6. Thanks so much for your post. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed with all of the troubles facing this world. The poverty in Nicaragua and the poverty and injustice I see every day in the US. I work in an Emergency Room in Georgia and see every day the results of unequal access to healthcare and stable safe jobs. All I can do is keep my eyes and my heart open to the possibility of giving a helping hand or a kind word or “speaking out” on my FB page when I can. I have traveled to Nicaragua for medical missions every year for the last eight years and dream of the day I can “retire” and move to Nicaragua where hopefully I can continue to practice/volunteer.

    • Oh Janet! You would be welcomed with open arms. That’s one of the reasons I love living here. It takes so little to help others…mainly an investment of time and lots of TLC. Next time you come to visit, you will have to come to Ometepe. Have you ever been to Ometepe? Thanks for stopping by.

  7. 102 temp? i hope that you’re better….

    this post made me think of a story that’s been on hold way too long. am in ‘town’ tonight to catch up on internet and i think i’ll try to squeeze this one in.. it’s a story about ‘maestro gabriel’ in rivas…

    thanks for shaking us and reminding us to wake up and be kind and care.


    • I am touched by your story of Maestro Gabriel. Thanks for sharing it with us. Next time I go to Rivas, I’m going on a search for him. I’ve had this spiking temp for 7 days, now. Yesterday, I went to town to the lab for a blood test and urinalysis. For 350c or about $13, I found out that I have a UTI infection. I got some strong antibiotics for $2.29 and I’m on the road to recovery. Not bad for $15.29, right?

  8. As always, beautifully written and I have to agree with so many of your thoughtful observations. I hate not being able to voice a comment in support of our US President for fear of provoking an all out vicious argument when I agree with something he does or a criticism of something I don’t agree with for fear that I’ll be mistaken for a rabid right-winger. And watching the injustices that are happening in the US as well the racial divide and inequity that is growing is heartbreaking. As for stepping around those in need, it’s far too easy to look away. I’m going to take your words to heart and work on opening both my eyes and my heart…Anita

    • Oh, Anita, I feel the same way you do. I get in so much trouble on Facebook and other forums when I comment on a post about inequality or the injustices in the world. I’m glad I have my blog. It is my sounding board and my therapy for all the heartbreaking things I read or see on the news. Thanks so much for your lovely comments.

  9. By the way, My answer? I started helping one kid at a time. I realized I could NOT help these kids on glue but I COULD help those who were vulnerable to ending up in the same plight. So now we have 340 kids who won’t end up like this boy. Is it enough? No way. But it is a start. Today I am happy to say another expat is asking me to work with us and learn our work to start helping kinds in another city, Jinotepe. Perhaps poco a poco, if we don’t just step around the problem we can make a difference….only child at a time. Again thanks for not letting it go and for writing this. It is important we work to change the world and perhaps with some momentum those that dream up this dark satire will start thinking differently as well.

  10. A good start would be to recognize that the problem begins with poverty, and the exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations (H. B. Fuller and its product Resistol leading to the name for these children, Resistoleros) selling this toluene-based glue when water-based products are available. I am wondering if Fuller has since banned Resistol or if the product is still there. Of course the problem is more than H. B. Fuller. Small glue joints are plentiful and as long as there is a market for it they will exist. Poverty must be combated, companies must be shamed, the government must act to ban these substances, and the churches too must get involved on a street level. It isn’t good enough to just show up to church on Sundays. Here are some articles: (this is an older one); (another older one); and a newer one here–

    • Jonathan, wow! Thanks so much for these links. I never considered that one solution would be to ban the products that contain Resistol in Central America. I tried to find out if it had been banned, but I don’t think the H. B. Fuller company has banned it in large quantities. They are still shipping barrels of industrial glue to Central America, although the smaller packages do not contain Resistol. There was an interesting lawsuit in 1992 ( I think that was the date), where Guatemalans sued the H.B. Fuller Company for wrongful death of a huffer ( a glue sniffer). H.B. Fuller Company was found not at fault.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing these links. I am going to do more research.

  11. Poverty is the result of overpopulation, with the technology available today less people are needed to do the same amount of work especially on the unskilled labor side. We have the Catholic Church and other religions to thank for overpopulation, a bubble that will eventually burst with people fighting for resources just to survive. We can only each deal with this in our own way….

    • Dean, poverty is a very complicated issue. I don’t think it can be narrowed down to overpopulation. It’s a combination of factors. I do believe we need the support of not only the Catholic Church, but everyone to help resolve or at least begin to resolve some sensitive issues around the world. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Thank you, thank you, for speaking out. THAT is an alternative to ‘stepping around! To stop, to point out, to speak out loud, to make a ruckus if need be. That’s why our young people now in the States (and Canada as well) are blocking traffic, lying down in the streets, making it difficult to ‘step around’ the horror of Eric Garner’s murder.
    Thank you for your outrage at using the misery of a child to make a joke and a buck. (although is it not such misery and poverty that makes Nicaragua economically ‘attractive’ to expats wanting to save or make a buck?)
    We all have a lot of waking up to do, to not continue as sleepwalkers, to stop “stepping around.” Doesn’t everything start at our own doorstep? “Whatever you can do, needs to be done.” You have the gift and skill of words and photos, the beautiful tool of your blog. And we each have a voice we can raise. When connected to an indignant heart, our power to make a difference can be huge. thank you again.

    • Linda, I’ve been thinking about your comment, “although is it not such misery and poverty that makes Nicaragua economically ‘attractive’ to expats wanting to save or make a buck?” You are right. There are many, many expats, volunteers, and visitors who are working to alleviate the misery and poverty in Nicaragua. What I don’t understand is why some expats want to step over these issues? Are they afraid that it may affect tourism? Their businesses? Are they afraid of letting the world know the dirty little secrets that exist in Nicaragua? I’m puzzled. And, it’s not only in Nicaragua, it is all over the world. Thanks for your support, Linda.

  13. We generally spend a few minutes on Sunday mornings reading some scriptures and meditating on deeper than normal daily issues. I thought that my time for deep thought had been well spent and that I would check the emails and get ready for an afternoon of NFL games.

    Then I read and felt the depth of your post. For the last thirty minutes I have been mediating. For much of my life I tried to ride the white horse and fix the world. While I may or may not have done some good, I also suffered through some years of heavy depression and wound up feeling helpless and ineffective.

    Now, in retirement, I call upon our children and their children to fight the front line battles while Mary and I simply extend hands in greeting to all we meet. I probably would have helped the fallen young man to a sitting position and shaken his hand with a hearty, “Mucho gusto.” and a farewell. It might be that the human touch and moment of recognition will help lift the downtrod or not, but at least it allows me to be a light set upon a hill rather than one hidden under a bushel.

    God bless you, and all others who care!

    • I am deeply touched by your response, John. I’ve been thinking about your comments since yesterday. I wrote this post with a fever of 102 degrees. Sometimes, posts like this fire me up! lol Seriously though, at a certain age, we have to extend our hands and words of encouragement and leave the hard battles to those who are younger and have more energy.
      I have always been an activist and a fighter. But, in these troubled times, I think it is more important to set an example of kindness to ALL living things. We are all victims at some point in our lives. But, we can still change the world through our attitudes and reach out to everyone in distress. Thank you again, John. You are blessed with great insight.

  14. Great post and a good reminder not to step around the issues we are faced with and try to do something, even small things, everyday to move forward. We all learned a good lesson from this whole story.

      • I think that is the thing I loved most about your post, owning your own guilt of the same issue. We all should. Who has not stepped over him/her etc? Your approach and humbleness completely disarm the reader, thus creating some space for true awareness.

  15. Wow, great post. Answers? I don’t know. I feel so small in the face of overwhelming problems. I think if we all do what we can, even if it is small, we are going in the right direction. It does feel like much of the world is going in the wrong direction though, sad to say.

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