At the end of our soi, just past the primary school and next to the newly-built church, there is a small area of shacks where migrant workers are living. Presumably, most of them are involved in construction as there are several new buildings going up nearby. The women and children have little to do. Yesterday I saw that, despite the narrow road and the relentlessness of the traffic, a woman and several children had set up a small stall selling food. The first time I went past, they had placed a piece of cardboard to try to protect themselves but by the time I had returned, that had (thankfully) been replaced by a parked car. The woman had disappeared and a small girl of perhaps 14 was supervising three smaller children. They all seemed happy enough sitting there. “Hello,” said the girl as I walked back home, “chicken!” Quite. This was incredibly funny and the kids were laughing almost helplessly as I passed. There were there again this morning and I smiled. It is an illegal pitch, almost certainly and involves child labour (although not the worst forms of child labour). I cannot imagine they can make much money anyway, since there are several other places to buy food nearby and, when the school or church is open, other vendors open up for business. Business opportunities are endlessly divided, therefore, by the low entry and exit barriers.
On the main road, I cross the footbridge to walk to the supermarket (my rock’n’roll lifestyle) and, under the steps of the footbridge, a middle-aged men usually sits (at the weekends anyway) on his blanket with his pack of tarot cards. As often as not, he has a customer, most commonly a young woman to whom he is explaining what the future holds. The poverty in this case is not so much in the case of the fortune-teller, although I cannot imagine he is going to make much money unless he finds some hi-so sponsor. The poverty is with the young women: they want to know what the future will bring, which is fair enough. In a developed, equitable society, we have some way of knowing what the future will bring: study hard, get a good job and prospects are good (don’t bother to study and you can guess the rest). But this does not happen in an inequitable society: work hard, study hard and you will, at best remain where you are because all the good jobs are kept for the children of the elite. Worse, one little accident and medical bills can ruin your life and the lives of your family. No wonder people turn to superstition or gambling.
The people have tasted freedom. They will not give it up easily.