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Monday, April 16, 2012

Are You Average? A View of The Typical World Inhabitant

I believe most Americans feature themselves as "average" in terms of their humanity. Is that because we have the audacity to promote the image of "the common man" as someone who dwells in a nation we, ourselves, often refer to as "the greatest country on the face of the earth," or do we view ourselves as "stock" earthly inhabitants because we view the world by standards that exist strictly within the confines of one nation?

I mean... how often do we concern ourselves with the views, the trials, and the daily motions of commonality as it relates to the world and its varied population? Most of us have a very limited global perspective forged by the evening news and brief commentaries of striking, major world events.

Sometimes human interest stories offer us a glimpse of normal human events in foreign lands, but these reports are typically used as "fillers," entertaining fodder for the audience that appreciates a little bit of the "interesting and unusual" perspective.

For example, I have often considered how little I know about anything that occurs in South America. I'm talking about my ignorance of an entire continent. These people are part of the Americas, so influential to our own culture. Shouldn't I have a better understanding of those who dwell there? Being the nosy person I am, I viewed some headline stories from Brazil today (April 16. 2012) and discovered the following:

*  The Brazilian economy is highly interdependent with the American economy, and U.S. exports to  Brazil have doubled in size in recent years.

 * Joao Augusto Castro Neves, Latin America analyst for the Eurasia Group reported, "In Washington, there’s this perception that Latin America is this homogeneous region with one agenda [the US can] put in place for the whole region. That model’s not true anymore.”

* Brazil and the US are working together in countries like Haiti, and cooperating on issues of energy, biofuel, and security.

* For the first 500 years of Brazil's history, pretty much anything that wanted to cross its borders could do so in relative peace, whether cattle, Indians or intrepid explorers. But now, Brazil's economic rise is forcing it to deal with a problem it long regarded as the sole concern of rich countries such as the United States: the need to secure its borders and slow down a flood of drugs, illegal immigrants and other contraband.

President Dilma Rousseff, under political pressure from a crack epidemic in Brazilian cities, is spending more than $8 billion and overhauling Brazil's defense strategy to tackle an issue that has implications for trade, agriculture and the overall economy.

* From 2006 to 2011, the proportion of Brazilians who were overweight went up from 42.7% to 48.5%. The health ministry described the trend as "worrying", but said it was not a direct result of rising prosperity. It highlighted major programmes to promote healthier eating and increased physical exercise, saying now was the time to confront the problem.

Was much of this news unknown by you? I admit I knew essentially none of it. I did have some clues about the booming economy of Brazil because I knew that Brazilian sugar cane used to make ethanol (sweet gas) has encouraged citizens to own flex-fuel cars. Brazilian gas contains a mandatory addition of 20-25 percent biofuels. This photo illustrates the consumers' six choices for gas there.

My point about the view of the typical inhabitant of the world is that the so-called "Average Joe American" is not the average person on planet Earth. With the help of National Geographic magazine, let me explain.

The Most Typical Person In the World

In 2011, National Geographic completed a year-long series on global population, "Are You Typical?" which compiled global data to produce a composite of the world's "most typical" person, along with other fascinating statistics.

Today there are over 7 billion people in the world. According to National Geographic, there are nine million people in the world who fit the description of the world's "most typical" person.

To figure out what the most typical human looks like, Nat Geo contacted the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which combined photos of 190,000 28-year-old Han Chinese men collected over the course of a decade into a single composite image. The magazine then enlisted the services of artist Joe Lertola, who recreated the photo Suerat-style using 7,000 human figures—one for every million people on earth.

This image serves as the background to a handy interactive breakdown of the human population by language, nationality, religion, literacy and other measures. Here is the composite image of the world's "most typical" person.

The most typical person is

* Male
* 28 years old
* han Chinese
* Right-handed


* Makes less than $12,000 a year
* Has a cell phone!
* Doesn't have a bank account

But, by 2030, that person will come from

* India

As most people might guess, China scores the top spot for both nationality (19% of people are Chinese) and language (13% of people speak Mandarin as their first language).

According to the magazine, just over half of the world’s people (51%) live in urban environments -- a measure of urbanization China expects to achieve by 2015.

The need to keep so many young men occupied and satisfied helps explain China’s stunning economic development over the past few decades, but it also highlights the reason so many Chinese have been reluctant to accept the notion that China has arrived as an economic superpower: As big as China’s GDP numbers may be, in per capita terms, it’s still very much in the middle of the pack.

Now That You Have Met "Mr. Typical," Consider Some With Far Less

Can we in America even fathom the plight of many unfortunate souls in the world? We hear statistics and view pitiful images of these people from time to time. Most of us -- yes, I count myself among the guilty -- simply shut our ears and turn our heads to avoid thinking about unfortunates. Some good Christian people would answer, "But that is the real, enduring state of the world." They may even cite the following biblical verse:

Jesus said, "You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."John 12:8
Regardless of our beliefs about those who suffer in the world, we should know the facts. Let's consider the basic needs of a human being: food, shelter, and love.


Hunger in the 21st century means the same thing it has always meant: not getting enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Yet many scientists believe there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the U.S.A., Canada and the European Union. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often. (

The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – there are over 1 billion people in the world today who do not get enough food to eat.

"That's one in 7 people on Earth
don’t know where
their next meal is coming from."


Because homelessness is often temporary, experts have a hard time estimating the number of homeless people at any given time. Still, recent studies by some of the top agencies in the U.S. and around the world have come up with approximate numbers that they believe are close enough to reality. But, numbers seem to change daily due to the homeless moving in and out of temporary housing, moving in with relatives, or into shelters.      

The number of homeless people around the world varies widely among countries. For example, there's an estimated 150,000 homeless in Canada, but only 30,000 in Japan. The European Union as a whole has about 3 million homeless.

"As a whole, the United Nations estimates
that there are about 500 million people
living homeless in the world at any given time."

Not in America? Well, approximately 700,000 to 2 million people in America spend their nights on the streets everyday. Out of these people, thirty five percent are people with families and twenty five percent are below the age of eighteen.

Orphans Seeking Love

"There are an estimated 163,000,000 orphans worldwide."

Some of these orphans have lost one parent, some both, and some are "virtual" orphans that have been turned out onto the streets by their families, but all are vulnerable and in need of help.

Without assistance these orphans continue in the cycle of poverty, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, prostitution and slavery that haunts developing countries. Here are some appalling statistics:

* Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa
* Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans
* Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone)
143,000,000 Orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home
* Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…
* Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system
* Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT
* Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home
* In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18. 60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

So what did Jesus mean when he said "You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me"?  Consider the circumstances: A woman, whose name we do not know, poured expensive perfume from a jar onto Jesus’ head and worked the perfume reverently into Jesus’ hair. Jesus knew that the woman was honoring him by mimicking the preparation of the dead for burial. She understood before most of the rest of Jesus’ followers that the cross is where Jesus was headed. The disciples, full of self-righteousness, criticize this act of devotion. What a waste of money, they say. The perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. So, only Jesus and the woman seemed to understand that Jesus would not always be with the disciples.

Bryant L. Myers writes , "First, Jesus was making a point about worship. The only reason Jesus brought the poor into the conversation was in response to the self-righteous misreading of the devotion of a woman we are never to forget. Second, Jesus was being ironic. By referring to the passage from Deuteronomy, Jesus was reminding the disciples that the only reason there are poor in God’s abundant creation is because of human sin and self-centeredness. The disciples did not care about the poor as much as they did about trying to make points at the expense of the woman. “The poor you will always have with you,” was a rebuke to Jesus’ disciples. The passage in Deuteronomy closes with a command. After the verse, 'There will always be poor people in the land,' we find this: 'Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.'" (Deut. 15:11)

So, Myers states, "I think God knew that God faced a profound contradiction." He explains:

"God’s world is productive enough to meet the needs of all.
Further, human beings created in the image of God are creative
 and productive enough to make it so.

"Yet the sin in the human heart and the curse of a fallen creation
 means that God’s world will not be what it was created to be.
 Even though God never intended that there be any poor,
he also knew that there would always be poor people
as long as there are sinful people in the world.

"Jesus’ statement about the poor always being with us is intended
to shame us, to remind us that this is a true statement
only because we have failed.
Jesus never intended to justify tolerance
for the presence of poor people in the land."

How incredibly fortunate we are in the United States to be a typical people who has the resources to meet our basic needs. In fact, we are overly blessed with so much good fortune. The average person in the world is, in fact, not like us and doesn't live like us. We must understand global conditions and concerns and attempt to do what we can to better the lives of those with so much less than us. And, we must be conscious that the world is going through dramatic change and accept that this change will continue at warp speed in the age of advanced communications and technology. Why? The answer is simple: We must follow the commandment to help our fellow man.
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