Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I don't know. I really don't.
I certainly don't think I'm a communist or a socialist. I do believe in free enterprise and letting the market determine the economy. Supply and demand and all that rot. I don't think I'm either liberal or conservative...it probably depends on the issue, and, even at that, it finally is laid upon the beholder's perception of me and the cause celebre. But I had two items juxtaposed upon my psyche recently, and, for the life of me, I can't shake what has settled itself upon my mind and heart as, at best, disparity, and, at worst, insanity.
North West, the infant brought into this world by the coupling of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, celebrated her first birthday recently. I'm sure she's a nice enough little girl and my angst has nothing to do with her personally. The birthday celebration was held on the grounds of Aunt Kourtney's multi-million dollar digs in Calabasas, CA and included 150 guests. There were teepees for hair-braiding, karaoke, and a Ferris wheel. Not a little party rental Ferris wheel but one that would do a county fair proud. There was the traditional bouncy house and a customized basketball court. Costumed adult guests sipped adult beverages and the kids had every sugar frenzy goody within arm's reach at all times.
I wouldn't even venture a guess at what this whole shebang cost Double K (maybe low six figures?) but I feel pretty confident that little Miss North West will not remember a micro-second of the day. And all of her nicely wrapped presents will be as forgotten as the weather that day in a very short while.
The same day I read that article, I watched a special on HBO about illegal kidney trafficking. One of the people featured was a middle-aged man in Manila who had approached a broker about selling one of his kidneys for $2500. Why? Because he and his family live in the crawl space below a friend's hovel and his teenage boys were reaching an age in which he would like for them to be able to stand up while at home. Do you understand that? He was going to use the money to build a simple place for his family to live. So he could have electricity. And maybe running water. So his kids could stand straight up. So his children did not have to crawl and squat and duck while maneuvering around what was being called "home" at the time.
He and his family live in the donated confines a freaking crawl space! Of a shack that's falling apart!
Unfortunately, he was competing against a younger Filipino who had several kids who didn't have enough food to eat or sufficient clothing, and the younger kidney won out, condemning the other man's kids to continue to stoop their way through life. Why the broker couldn't take both kidneys is a mystery to me but that's probably another story.
I won't venture a guess at how uncomfortable it is to live in the crawl space of a tottering shack, but I'm certain that those young men will remember for the rest of their lives having to spend their teenage years trying to keep from hitting their heads on the floor joists of a dank, smelly enclosure.
Which leaves me to wonder if, as I read from time to time, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting wider. And, if it is, what, if anything, is the consequence? Should the gap be embraced as a shining monument to the existence of capitalism? Should the separation of net worth be saluted as proof that free enterprise exists? Is this a textbook example of survival of the economic fittest?
And is it unfair of me to feel disdain toward over-the-top, theatrical birthday celebrations for one-year-olds? Perhaps. I'll work on it.
Then again, would it be so awful to wish that Kanye and Kim, instead of renting the Ferris Wheel, had given little North a card that said that they, on her behalf, had donated $2500 to a family in Manila and that because of that small, but heart-felt gesture of generosity, there's now a family able to live in a house with electricity and running water and room to stand up straight? Would it be so bad to imagine that when little North reached the appropriate age, she would have something really good to reflect upon and feel good about?
And should I stop fixating on the irony that North and the young Filipinos are both in a crawling phase of life with the innate desire to walk upright? With the future extremely bright for one and extremely limited for the other?
Too many questions. With too few answers.
I don't know. I really don't.