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Yesterday we ended my yoga class with a long Savasana (also known as corpse pose, a restorative pose on the back combined with a deep guided relaxation of the whole body).

We could hear birds, the surf, the wind, and various car and human sounds, we felt the soft breeze and inhaled deeply.

As we sat up, we looked around to discover that we’d been joined by three sleeping dogs, an asleep kitten and a mother hen and her chicks.

The hen had her eyes closed, and she and the chicks were sleeping not two feet from the dogs.

Our communal animal relaxation was an amazing experience on so many levels; the animals felt utterly safe; at this moment they trusted us dangerous humans, and each other, in this moment.

The dogs, however, have a job. They are guardians because it is not uncommon for people to break and enter. We have the dogs because we don’t trust our community.
I want to say this is silly; however, each day that I am here in Madagascar, I learn a lesson or two in not trusting.

Prices here are rarely fixed. Overcharging or outright taking from a “perceived wealthy stranger” is perfectly normal. I avoid shopping in stores without premarked prices.

If you venture to the open market or take a taxi, it’s best to note ahead of time the correct or fair price. If you don’t know, it’s best to attempt to bargain.

I’ve found that even offering as little as 20% or 30% of the original price is a good indicator to see if someone was trying to overcharge seriously.

If you can “drive” a good bargain — it doesn’t mean you got a deal — it says you got much closer to the correct price.

If something is lost here, it’s rarely found. Money dropped is money lost. Friends are unabashed about overcharging or cheating other friends. Of course, that doesn’t serve friendships well.

A wise friend shared a while back on Facebook: “Consider money lent out a gift until it’s repaid, then you can call it a loan.” That seems like wise advice — don’t lend out — what you are not willing or able to give up.

On the flipside, when investing in car-repairs or building supplies, one would expect to be dealt with fairly and honestly; especially when it is known that you plan to continue doing business. The honest and reliable business builds long-term relationships and long-term clients. If you cheat your clients, you tend not to get repeat business.

Sadly, we’ve learned that buying or ordering services through long-term acquaintances and friends here is far from a guarantee of honesty. Of course, this is why in the USA we use contracts and printed agreements for everything. Contracts save friendships.

Another oddity, in my opinion, is related to trust and respect:  there is a tendency for people to outright ask for gifts from your possessions. Someone will see something you have and ask for it and then be offended when your response is not positive.

“Hey! Sure! I want you to take this Boss speaker that I worked hard to earn the funds for that I use daily and cannot easily replace…” Not.

Both of these experiences take me back to Robert Lupton and his idea of Toxic Charity.

Give once, and you elicit appreciation;
Give twice, and you create anticipation;
Give three times, and you create expectation;
Give four times, and it becomes entitlement;
Give five times, and you establish dependency.

Charity disempowers people and creates dependency. I’d also argue that it creates a lack of trust at the level of entitlement. Entitlement creates a situation in which the “receivers” have the right to receive and the “givers” are obligated to give.

If you fall into a socially perceived role of “giver” than a self-identified receiver feels justified taking from you whether it’s through cheating, deception, lying, or theft. When this happens between friends and strangers, it merely results in a shortened relationship.

People chose to do business elsewhere. When it occurs amongst family, it creates feuds. I’ve seen it all in the last four months, and it’s disheartening. Why do I care? Above and beyond the fact that this lack of trust is an expensive proposition for my “Giver” family, I care because there is also a strong correlation between the poorest countries and the countries that exhibit the lowest levels of social trust.

Before a nation can build economic capital, it needs a reserve of social capital. Right now Madagascar, despite its natural beauty, the laughter, the kindness, and generosity displayed, from the office of the President to the street vendor; is functionally low on social capital.

“A few lies, statistics and damn statistics” (Benjamin Disraeli, Former British PM) to backup my arguements.

GNI or the income of the average Malagasy is USD 400 per year in 2017

And GNI in the 60,200 USD in 2017

“GNI per Capita, Atlas Method (current US$)” from The World Bank | Data. Accessed December 09, 2018.