Saturday, September 17, 2011
Early on in my stay in El Salvador, I was fumbling my way through the daily newspaper. I came across a startling headline that placed the Salvadoran unemployment rate somewhere in the seven percent range. The old saw still holds true. There are three types of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics. While there a small number of Salvadorans are without any work, a large number are dramatically underemployed, so the seven percent rate is misleading. Official employment numbers include work in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy, and it is in the informal sector – which accounts for something like half of all non-agriculural employment in El Salvador – that so many people can be categorized as “underemployed.”
As we ground through a fascinating, exhausting, perhaps disheartening afternoon, someone would occasionally pick up the bug zapper and swat at a fly. In most instances, I would hardly have noticed such an action at all, but on this day it seemed filled with importance, however unintentional. It gave ME a tiny jolt, too. Juxtaposed with a picture of a power structure that had systematically engaged in the wanton killing of thousands of people, the casual swat at a couple of flies became for me a startling symbol of what happens when we slip into thinking of others not as human persons but as pests.
-Chris Welch SIPPIE '11