The Locust Effect and Unaccompanied Minors in the U.S.

I recently finished an excellent book entitled The Locust Effect. It was written by the founder of International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen. The thesis of the book is that hundreds of millions of poor people in developing countries are not able to escape from poverty primarily because they do not have any legal protection. Bad guys can harm others with impunity and not fear any repercussions via a functional criminal justice system.

What was most eye opening about the book is how fragile and dangerous daily life is for much of the world. The poorest people in the world experience horrendous violence at the hands of corrupt government officials, other desperate poor people, and (worst of all) the rich elite in their own countries. It’s really very disturbing what our fellow human beings do to each other — what we are all capable of doing when there are no real external restraints on our behavior.

Just as I was thinking about how miserable and difficult life is for those struggling at the bottom rungs of society across the globe, news reports of how tens of thousands of children are fleeing to the U.S. in this past year have made headlines. After reading The Locust Effect, the existence of these kids on our borders makes good sense. Parents across the globe love their children and want the best for them. Kids themselves want to go to school and be safe from violence. When daily life in, for example, Honduras (the murder capital of the world) is more dangerous than traveling thousands of miles in search of a better, safer life in a wealthier, safer country — who would not make this journey? At some point in every family’s history — even if you have to go back four or five generations — we have all sought a better life for our children in another country and taken risks to make this happen.

Why Being a Billionaire Isn't That Big of a Deal

Our culture worships money and idolizes those who make a lot of it. I too have fantasized more than I want to admit about how my lifestyle could change with unlimited cash. But if you stop and actually, truly think about the things that money cannot buy, you realize that chasing money is actually a bad investment of your life. For some reinforcement or proof, ask yourself a few simple questions. "How much money would I be willing to accept" in exchange for:

(i) Never visiting another country?

(ii) Never reading another book?

(iii) Never seeing another movie?

(iv) Never playing sports again?

(v) Giving up my sight or hearing?

(vi) Never seeing my closest friends again?

(vii) Losing my significant other?

I wouldn't take a billion dollars for any of these and I suspect you wouldn't either.

Should We Give Spare Change to the Homeless?

I had lunch recently with an old friend from high school. We covered a lot of ground, but mainly discussed unorthodox methods for fighting cancer. Like so many families, we have loved ones who are afflicted with this disease and are open to trying different options. In the middle of our discussion on medical marijuana and the ketogenic diet, a young man in his early twenties hesitantly approached us. He was polite and asked if we could give him any money to buy some lunch.

For years, I haven't been giving out any spare change to people who ask. Part of my justification is that since I'm working in downtown Portland, I get at least three requests a day and I also don't want to "reward" panhandling. My friend Chris, however, pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to the grateful lad.

I liked what Chris immediately said next: "Yeah it's likely he made some bad choices to get to this point. And he may use my money for something other than lunch. But the guy is still hungry and still cold."


Terrence Malick and the "Problem of Good"

I discovered Terrence Malick movies only recently. His work is mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful. So far I've seen "The Thin Red Line," "The Tree of Life" and my wife and I watched "To the Wonder" just last night. Malick is very much into philosophy I've learned. His movies, however, convey mainly sensory impressions and not much happens in terms of a story. But I think he wants us to slow down and look carefully and thoughtfully at the life happening around us. To truly see both the natural world and the people closest to us. In doing so we won't "miss the glory" as Brad Pitt's character said in "Tree of Life."

The most meaningful part of Malick's movies for me though is how he confronts two challenging issues. He has us think about the "problem of evil" regarding the bad things that happen to people and the horrible things we do to each other. But he also makes us come face to face with the good in the world and in each other. This - in the philosophy world - is known as the "problem of good" and is in fact a perplexing issue if you don't think evil or good actually exist.

In all of his movies I've seen, Malick brilliantly shows both the beautiful goodness and horrendous evil of the world. He then asks us to deal with the fact that both are indeed real.