11 thoughts on “Enough”

  1. What kept me from feeling too sorry for myself was watching things like WWI and WWII documentaries. Families who lost everything, then rebuilt from scratch. And tales of living thru the depression from grandparents.

    Funny how surveys show that all but the poorest countries have happiness levels comparable to developed countries. Embarrassing that folks in China, Korea, and vicinity routinely save 1/3 of their income. And most Americans in the 1950’s didn’t feel poor, even the ones that were.

  2. There is some hope. In Seattle there are Apodments–rental suites with shared bathrooms and kitchens. They’ve been going up steadily, are loved by the young people moving in, and naturally hated by the existing neighbors as the end of civilization. Fortunately they persist.


  3. What you’re leaving out is that the Asian continent (& diaspora) is home to the most naked materialism and status seeking on the planet. So presenting this charming family vs. the “North American model” (Why the empty driveways? Why not some Thanksgiving dinner shots?) in a compare/contrast fashion is a bit dishonest.

    I mean I get your point that what constitutes “Enough” materially is a lot less than most Americans think and “middle class” is relative to the globe. But the concept of “happiness” as a personal life goal doesn’t even exist in most cultures. Rather, it’s all about the family and its status within the hierarchy. Err.. community.

    I’m making sweeping and offensive generalizations here obviously. But maybe a follow up post with a little context? Well meaning white guys can veer into Noble Savage territory pretty quickly is all I’m saying…

    1. If this family could relocate to a five bedroom house with a pool they’d already have done it. They’re neither “noble” nor “savage.”

      I’m attempting to make two points here. The first is that no matter how much material prosperity anyone has, we all always want more. The second point is that physical constrains limit what people are capable of achieving in various locations.

      All 1.2 billion Indians can’t live like suburban Americans. It isn’t physically possible. If all Indians became wealthy they might be able to live like prosperous people in Hong Kong or Tokyo. But even that level of consumption is iffy unless the Indian population decreases significantly.

      At a certain point we all need to think about the difference between “need” and “want” given what’s actually possible.

  4. Thanks for the post. It’s great to keep things in perspective. It also makes me think about the small Indian house you discuss and how even if people here wanted to live smaller, it’s basically not legal from a building code or zoning code standpoint to build a 200 sf house in this country. Particularly one that shares a bathroom with a neighbor! I’d like to see the plan check staff wrap their head around that! We’ve regulated our way from being able to live simply.

  5. A lot of American architecture looks nicer from a distance than up close. Those Indians may actually have a better life in their denser living conditions. They have shorter daily commutes, better knit neighborhoods, more social and cultural contact.

  6. I grew up in one of those big homes like you pictured, outside Hartford CT in the 50s-60s. Just occurred to me as I read this that people then rarely if ever remodeled their homes. The whole ‘we must have granite counter tops’ (or whatever is trendy this year) just didn’t exist.

  7. I’ve really enjoyed these blogs about India. I spent a couple months in New Delhi in 2011 and marveled at the fast, flashy developments amidst the India of yesterday. I remember seeing a glossy Hummer dealership right next to an old dusty village with cows milling around. What really struck me as an ignorant foreigner was how vibrant it was to see all strata of society mixed together there. The lower and higher caste peoples woven together so tightly. I didn’t sense that NIMBY feeling like in the US where the poor needed to be out of sight. I wondered if they were tolerated by the higher castes because it’s easier to deal with the poor if your culture believes that the poor are where they are in society because of “fate” or destiny, and not because society/govt has failed? Or is it just a matter of how packed the population is and you can’t not just learn to get along in tight quarters…?

    Anyway, Thanks for your blog.

    1. Oh, the “gated community” is alive and well in India. You were just in an older part of the city. All the new stuff is walled off and bullet proof. More blog posts to come…

      1. Nothing is bullet proof, of course. An acquaintance of a friend is wealthy Pilipino descent, and the family owned a luxury B&B back in the islands in a gated golf course community. They returned to the island and were in the property with a ton of money (they were cashing out their businesses in the Philippines) and somebody (an employee? a friend?) set them up for a home invasion robbery (with guns and threats).

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