Labis: “Too Much”
If there were an easy answer to endemic poverty, the kindest among us would surely have already implented it. There’s no simple solution. But one thing is obvious — at least to an outsider: desperately poor people must stop having desperately poor children, most of whom cannot be fed, educated, and cared for properly.
The Filipinos have a word, “labis.” It means, more or less, “too much.” In the Philippines and countless other “developing countries,” the population is “labis,” and something must be done. The problem is the dominant religion is Catholicism, which views every sex act that results in procreation as a blessing, not an economic curse. Plus, the culture encourages respect and reverence for elders, and many poor folks have multiple children as a long-term investment, believing that their offspring will one day provide for them — and everyone else in the constantly growing extended family.
Say what you will about the horrible Chinese dictatorship, but their “one-child-per-family” edict seems like a good, if radical, idea. Discussions of forced sterilizations raise emotions to a fever pitch, as though we elite few with plenty of capital and resources have an inchoate desire to improve “our” world through Eugenics. But let’s be realistic about it: A father who earns $5 a day should not — cannot — have a wife and four children under the age of 6. The math doesn’t add up to nutrition, education and health. It equals squalor, disease, and hopelessness.
To be fair, perhaps population control shouldn’t be based on economic circumstances. Given our rapidly dwindling resources, perhaps every family, rich or poor, ought to consider limiting their brood to one. Perhaps we should give our planet a century to recover, to take a deep breath and begin anew. Stuffing it with “labis,” more mouths, more consumers, more pollution will ensure that “developing countries” develop nothing but shantytowns, sickness, and violence. Why anyone wants to raise a child in such an environment remains an abiding mystery.