Riazat Butt, religion reporter for the Guardian, is traveling in Afghanistan with British army chaplains. One chaplain said to her:
“People who come find their faith challenged – whatever their faith – when you test it. Witnessing inhumanity and indecency is very challenging. What people are asked to do here can lead to big questions. I’m not suggesting everyone will become an evangelical Christian but people start to ask questions and that’s a start. What all of us would prefer is a thought-through faith. This is a place where people do that for the first time.
Warren Throckmorton keeps us up to date on the status of the notorious anti-gay bill in Uganda. He writes: Uganda’s Cabinet Minister’s have urged Parliament and MP David Bahati to drop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, according to the Daily Monitor. Bahati declined to do so, saying the bill is now the property of Parliament.
In a fascinating article from The New York Times Magazine, John Tierney discusses decision fatigue, a concept that you will need to follow this link to understand in full. What caught my eye was a passage on how decision fatigue particularly effects the poor, and may play a role in what is sometimes described as a “culture of poverty.”
Shopping can be especially tiring for the poor, who have to struggle continually with trade-offs. Most of us in America won’t spend a lot of time agonizing over whether we can afford to buy soap, but it can be a depleting choice in rural India. Dean Spears, an economist at Princeton, offered people in 20 villages in Rajasthan in northwestern India the chance to buy a couple of bars of brand-name soap for the equivalent of less than 20 cents. It was a steep discount off the regular price, yet even that sum was a strain for the people in the 10 poorest villages. Whether or not they bought the soap, the act of making the decision left them with less willpower, as measured afterward in a test of how long they could squeeze a hand grip. In the slightly more affluent villages, people’s willpower wasn’t affected significantly. Because they had more money, they didn’t have to spend as much effort weighing the merits of the soap versus, say, food or medicine.
Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class. It’s hard to know exactly how important this factor is, but there’s no doubt that willpower is a special problem for poor people. Study after study has shown that low self-control correlates with low income as well as with a host of other problems, including poor achievement in school, divorce, crime, alcoholism and poor health. Lapses in self-control have led to the notion of the “undeserving poor” — epitomized by the image of the welfare mom using food stamps to buy junk food — but Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget. In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character — after all, they could presumably save money and improve their nutrition by eating meals at home instead of buying ready-to-eat snacks like Cinnabons, which contribute to the higher rate of obesity among the poor. But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich — because each purchase requires more mental trade-offs — by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles. Not for nothing are these items called impulse purchases.