Enjoying a high standard of living with just a modest income

There are times when the anger and blame-throwing of people in the countries that have been reduced to recession for the past four years makes me think of a teenager who has crashed his car in an accident that was his fault and he keeps plaguing his indulgent father: “Yeah, I know, Dad, but when are you going to fix things so I can buy another car and have a normal life again?”

Have people forgotten that while their governments were maxing out their credit cards so were they? And that part of the reason the housing sector crashed was that they were buying homes beyond their needs and budgets? That they bought into the ‘let the free market be free.’ And what goes up never comes down. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

Most people living in Costa Rica know who José “Pepe” Figueres was. He came into power after a bloody civil war in the 1940’s (as in most wars, more civilians and noncombatants were killed than were the military). As head of the junta that guided the country for 18 months, Figueres dissolved the army in 1948, and the new constitution in 1949 permanently abolished the military. At the same time he gave the vote to women. He also had his say regarding what the people of his country should consider.

Perhaps as we recover from this worldwide recession, we will heed his words, “We propose, American peoples, to attain a high standard of living with modest economic income. Do not be like apes. Do not imitate the rich societies of today, who sometimes feel more frustrated the more goods they produce.” (1973). (Remember, Costa Ricans consider themselves Americans, too).

He also said, “The day that every worker understands that he must work harder for his own good and for that of all others and in so doing, he will understand true happiness and joy, is the day the world will have changed.”

No, he was not a Communist, he was the founder of the Partido Liberación Nacional, which has pretty much been the dominant party ever since.

And there is one quote of his that I applaud enthusiastically. “Our interest is to eliminate poverty, but at the same time we can create outstanding cultural development in the country. We cannot become a society of abundance without the cultivation of the mind . . . We need more painting and sculpture, more philosophy, more poetry, more literature.”

That has been happening over the years in this country. This past weekend a friend and I went to the Plaza Mayor where the halls were filled with an exhibition of sculpture, in wood, metal, stone, even recycled paper and paintings ranging from landscapes to the kind that challenge the mind and imagination. All were works of Tico artists. Costa Rica has annual music, dance, book and crafts fairs and food festivals.

Many of these festivals have international participation. And so much of it is free. I would say that being able to enjoy all of these cultural treats contributes to a high standard of living on a modest income.

Some years ago I was one of the judges at an annual play (as in theater) competition at a local high school that included high schools both here and in other countries of Central America. A lot of talent was revealed. The Little Theatre Group continues to work with students in schools in writing and producing plays. I am a firm believer that many education problems, like attendance and student interest in classes, even in grades, would be improved if art, music, drama and intramural sports were put back in the curriculum of schools here and in the United States, where they have been the first to be cut in money saving moves.

And speaking of plays, this weekend you can be one of the first to see the “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” the monologue written and performed by Mike Daisey, now staged by the Little Theatre Group. This presentation will include a number of actors. From what I have heard, it is witty, irreverent and thought-provoking. It opens tonight and will run this weekend and next at the Laurence Olivier Theater (next to Sala Garbo). (Call 8858-1446 for reservations). Maybe I will see you there on Sunday.

Food for thought is sometimes the most nourishing sustenance available.

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