Before I went to the Third World, I thought this statement meant that for poor people, life was expendable and easily replaceable, and as such, they could be driven or slaughtered with little consequence.

After my trip to Guatemala, my definition has changed to something more literal, that only tangentially refers to violence. I now think that a better meaning of the phrase Life is Cheap would be 'human labor can be attained and used at a surprisingly small cost'. In other words, actions that USAns usually assume are performed by machine are instead performed by the application of manual labor.

Some examples:

  • When my aunt picked me up at the airport and we took the car out of the parking lot, the 'automatic' gate was actually raised by the attendant pulling on a rope.
  • Rather than use closed circuit cameras for security in banks and jewelry shops, two or three guards armed with revolvers and combat shotguns were employed instead.
  • Tiles signifying wheelchair ramps were individually hand-painted, rather than stamped.
  • Rather than putting up posters to advertise a certain political party, the slogans and symbols were painted directly onto the walls (See if you can find someone in the USA to exhibit that kind of commitment for either Bush or Gore).
  • Hand-sewn shorts and shirts could regularly be had for less than $7 (and this from the peddlers, not direct from the people that made them)

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