The Informed

Let Them Eat Cake: To Have or Have Not

On a beautiful sunny Tuesday in Beverly Hills, California, a young woman alights from her white gull-winged Lamborghini Countach and hands the keys to the young Valet. "Be careful - I just got it waxed," she says to the boy. He is dressed impeccably in a white uniform almost matching the car in its tones but lacking its lustre and its shine; he is only a worker, not an elite. As he carefully parks the machine in a row of other equally impressive machines along a beautiful street lined with rows of tall towering palm trees, she walks towards the boutiques with a stride and confidence becoming some sort of queen. The breeze billows her beautiful dress and the sun gleams off her car in the lane and her sunglasses as she struts, and it's just another Tuesday for Marie, but today is a shopping day, and she always loves a good shopping day. Partly because she loves things, but mostly because she is very, very good at it. When Marie goes shopping, she always tells her socialite friends, she goes shopping.

Born in to an incredibly rich family with generations of inherited wealth, she has never known hunger, never known poverty and never thought twice about indulging herself. She has never known hunger, never known poverty and never thought twice about indulging herselfPart of the super-elite, a member of only a handful of families on the planet that hold the majority of its wealth and live their lives thusly, she holds all the keys. She deserves it, she figures, because she's entitled to it. After all, she was born into it and that's not her fault, and why shouldn't she deserve her good fortune in life? Someone has to be rich, why not her? She whips out her iPhone and quickly replies to the text from her boyfriend that, yes, she would be at the fundraiser tonight, smiley face. Thank God he's handsome, she thought. But before the gala she needs new shoes, a new dress and she has been in desperate need of a pedicure. And a little touch up on the Botox wouldn't hurt either, time permitting; a busy day indeed.

Her first stop is Jimmy Choo to pick up a new pair of  Vanquish pumps, a mere $1595, cheapies for Marie, but she's in a rush today. Next, off to Chanel for a little black dress, a steal at $2100. Pedicure, a quick massage and a new handbag for good measure totals a slight $4300. The Botox will have to wait until tomorrow, because after a quick $247 lunch and cocktails she's off to get ready for the fundraiser - something about the poor overseas. $8242 for the day, not bad, plus a $10K cheque for the needy, of course. Fundraisers always make her feel good about herself, and the food is usually fabulous.

By stark and somewhat unsettling contrast, on the same Tuesday across the Pacific Ocean, past South East Asia and the Pacific Rim, Past India and the Arabian Sea to the Sudan in Eastern Africa, an emaciated boy of 10 scavenges through a pile of garbage hoping to find some food. The sun no longer scorches as it sets, but he hasn't eaten in two days, not anything digestible at least, and his hunger pangs are all he can think about. That and the fact that his father left two weeks ago to work for a man in town and hopefully bring home some money for food. Sometimes his father was gone for months at a time, and sometimes he wondered if he would ever return at all. The boy is called Abebe, and it will be unlikely he will see 30 years old. His mother named him this because it means 'flourish and grow', and she wanted better for him than she had. She  wouldn't wish her pain and suffering on anyone, let alone her beloved little boy.

But at ten years old, he would soon be leaving behind childish things and he would have to leave to go find work for himself and bring  home food and money to the family. She would miss him but she tried not to think about the time when he would leave. She just wanted to make it through another season without any more death. It had been so long since there was a bountiful season that she could barely remember what it was like, but she hoped and prayed every day that there would be abundance this year. The ground around their tiny village was dry and cracked, and the smells of decay on the air a constant reminder of their terrible, wretched lot in life. She knew that this year wouldn't be much better than the last, and her heart sank at the thought of it. She wondered if somehow, someone would come and rescue her family from this nightmare.

Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food, but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die every day in childbirth, and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe. - Ban Ki-moon

Yes, this inequality is as extreme as inequality could possibly be, but who's fault is this terrible stain on our collective conscience? When did we feel that it would be ok to allow fellow human beings to live in this way, in an age when we could eradicate these problems tomorrow if we only decided to do so? Who's agenda benefits from such a terrible mass of impoverished people, and more importantly, why?

The real-world examples of both extremes of this equation are plentiful and aren't really necessary in this debate. It's sad, the fact that we know this disparity of wealth exists so intimately that it isn't even an issue for debate; it is both well-known and duly avoided. We all saw the commercials as children; for the price of a cup of coffee a day. And this theory is not even afforded the doubt that some put forth about climate change or the validity of the Holocaust.

Let me point out a few simple facts that even far-right pundits will have trouble refuting. In 2009, according to Oxfam, the richest 1% of the planet held 44% of the world's wealth. By 2014, that had risen to 48%, and by 2016 they will own half of the planet's wealth. It's projected that by 2020, they will have gotten their fat little finders on 58% of that pie. I'm not an economist, but that just doesn't seem right, or fair, or smart.

At all. In fact, it seems downright evil to a rational person. It's one thing to be well-off or comfortable, but seriously, when is enough, enough? Especially in the light of such profound suffering. It would appear never. As staggering as all of that is, can you believe that, as of 2015, 85 people hold as much in their greedy little hands as 3.5 billion? Eighty-five people, or 1/84th of one million have half of everything. Shame on them, and on all of us for allowing this to be. This should never have been to begin with.


Some say the solution to this problem comes in educating the poorest girls of the planet and that it yields great returns, of which I have no doubt. But whatever the solution is, can we not decide to work towards a world where we have the resources of another billion humans who are empowered to contribute, where the two-thirds of the world's population that have no access to the Internet suddenly do, where we can sleep soundly with the knowledge that we collectively agree to take care of the least among us, always? Why can't this be the world we live in? The truth is, it can be.

The benefits of wealth redistribution are countless. Far less crime and disease, a huge reduction in unnecessary mortality rates, more literacy and education, an increase in social action, manpower and means to effect change and government structure. We'd be able to reshape this world together without the limitations and barriers we've struggled with for so long. But maybe that's it; that's what they're scared of, there's the rub. Maybe if we liberate billions and allow them access to the wealth of our shared knowledge and give them the means to survive, maybe then they'll also rise. And that scares the shit out of them quite frankly. Never forget, their biggest fear is that one day we will all wake up, especially those people who have been wronged by them for so many generations, denied the means to fight back or retaliate. But they cannot suppress all the people forever. One day everybody will wake up, one and all, and one day soon.

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