The Ovarian Lottery

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Seems that some enterprising reporters have managed to find Barack Obama’s half brother in Kenya.

The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate’s half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.

“No-one knows who I am,” he told the magazine, before claiming: “I live here on less than a dollar a month.”


I’m sure that if the MSM really picks up on this, we’ll see all kinds of stories insinuating that it is Barack’s responsibility/fault that his half-brother lives in these kinds of conditions. I doubt, however, that many reporters and pundits would take the perspective of kyledeb from Citizen Orange – even though I think he got it just about right.

I think a huge part of what motivates me to develop myself as a global citizen is the following: at least one of every two children that is born into the world today lives in conditions that those reading this can’t even imagine.  Half the world lives on under $2 a day, and it’s a world that people with access to a computer can’t hope to relate to.

It would be a lot easier for me to live in this world if I believed half the world deserved that fate.  It would be a lot easier for me to live in this world everyone has a chance at success.  I know the truth, though.  The truth is success and privilege has more to do with chance than ability.  I’ve known to many good, hard-working people that have landed on the wrong side of chance to believe otherwise.  Their only sins are the circumstances they were born into.

My thought is that Barack Obama is no more and no less responsible for the plight of his half brother than I am. As kyledeb points out, the lives of these two men clearly demonstrate what Warren Buffet calls The Ovarian Lottery.

The world is unfair, and I have been very lucky. I was born white – and male – in the world’s richest country, to parents that took care of me, and inspired me. I could, for example, have been born a woman – in Bangladesh – with few possibilities of development. It’s a big lottery.

From this vantage point, I have something in common with Barack Obama that is very fundamental to the paths that our lives have taken. I was born white and female in an upper middle class family where my success in life was never doubted. That’s not to say that I haven’t struggled in life or that I have not faced barriers. But ultimately, most of the doors I contemplated passing through were fairly easily opened. I don’t feel guilty about that – guilt is a waste of energy. What I do feel is the need to remember the fact that I was a “winner” in the lottery and to embrace that with humility and gratitude.

If you keep your food in a refrigerator, your clothes in a closet

if you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head,

You are richer than 75% of the world’s population.


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    • Edger on August 21, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    most truthful “truths” of the past century…

    If you keep your food in a refrigerator, your clothes in a closet

    if you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head,

    You are richer than 75% of the world’s population.

    • dkmich on August 21, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Location, location, location.  

  1. Fantastic post NL.

  2. initial conditions determine the eventual state.  Well said, NLinStPaul.

    • kyledeb on August 22, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Beautifully written NLinStPaul,

    My post wasn’t as crafted as well as I had wanted to craft it.  It’s funny you ended on the words gratitude and humility because gratitude and humility and truth is a huge part of what motivates me.  In fact, the color orange is what I used to represent gratitude.

  3. Maybe this is ot, maybe not.

    I have an exercise I love to do.  I take a piece of paper and pencil and I make a numbered list of things or people or events I have gratitude for.  A list of 50 items.  As I write each item, I feel my gratitude for it.  That’s the most important part of the exercise.  Go ahead and try it, if you’re interested.

    How long did it take to make the list?  When I am happy and feeling well, it is quick.  When I am sad, depressed, fearful, it takes longer.  Either way, the feeling of gratitude changes how the world looks.  In fact, the feeling of gratitude always makes the world look better.

  4. for me. While I’m grateful to be born here, to have the stuff so to speak, their is a part of me that says why is this progress or good? It’s a construct of materialism. Why does the world have to live with refrigeration and closets and our vision of the good life? It’s like we created the misery with our materialism. Why do we feel that all societies should be organized with our view of life? Success in this instance seems to be defined access to our structures which we try to impose globally.

    I liked the story a few months ago about a village in South America they found aerially that had apparently cut themselves off from the outside. I ask if the people in places like Nairobi were not subjected to a outside imposed western colonization , and were left to organize their societies in their own manner would they be impoverished and objects of pity? 2.00 a day is our measurement and in a society that is self sustaining would be useless. The lottery is titled to our views of winners and losers. It also helps turn the people who live outside our vision of success into losers. Like missionaries of the material we seek to spread our materialism or organization and pecking order on the world.          

    • Viet71 on August 23, 2008 at 2:12 am

    becoming what one is capable of becoming.

    There are lots of failed artists.

    Lots of people who could of done it.

    Lots of people who have ability but aim low.

    So much has to do with location and inner drive.

    Most people, including myself, take the path of least resistance.

    A few, who are geniuses, are driven no matter what they may wish.

  5. The Field Negro has an interesting take on this story.

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