Lotteries and Institutions

Bernie Sanders (and clearly many other people based on how many votes he got) seems to believe that there is a sickness deep at the heart of American capitalism that only a revolution can fix. While I don’t entirely buy any of his rhetoric, and firmly believe he is just as much of a politician as anyone else in the Senate, so I don’t ascribe to the savior-mentality that his followers do, I think he has a point.

One thing that I noticed over and over again during my 10 weeks living in the Dominican Republic was how much nicer the Banca kiosks were than any other buildings. These kiosks were plastered with fresh looking colorful paint, often had glass windows surrounding the grated front, and there was almost always a computer visible within the kiosk. You might be thinking, because I used the word ‘banca’ that they were banks. They weren’t. These were lottery stations where poor people could risk whatever little money they did have on the chance at a better life.

Because the DR is ostensibly a democracy (you could argue that based on incumbency rates and rampant corruption that it is closer to an ineffectual military junta or oligarchy, but let’s stick to democracy for now), and culturally people seem to operate in groups bounded by extended family rather than coming together as a town, there is no one stopping businesses from making money off of vices. Every town store sold liquor, which many people used daily to escape. By mid-morning there would already be drunks in the streets, and by late afternoon there were pockets of drunks scattered throughout the campo.

Never before in my life have I liven in a place where I felt like the institutions we take for granted here in the United States would have been more useful; a nice Catholic Church, a civic center, a YMCA, or anything that could have bound people together into believing that they were a part of something bigger, and thus should dream bigger. I don’t blame the people of Derrumbadero for drinking or wasting money on lottery tickets. Those are two of the only ways to get bigger and have a chance. That is why I believed so much in the new Youth Center and their baseball team, it offers the kids a chance to know they matter, and to see and dream about places farther away than just the town.

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