I’m an artist. I’ve grown up living frugally. I wore my sisters’ hand-me-downs until I was a teen, walked two miles to school, had no allowance (save the 25 cents my father left me daily for lunch in high school, which I hoarded and used to buy art supplies. In four years, I never stepped into the school cafeteria).
As a child, I was aware of those in other countries in worse conditions than ours (not discounting my mother’s sermons to encourage our eating: “there are children starving in Brooklyn”). Social media of the 60’s – primarily television – made me aware of a larger world that suffers and barely survives.
My home for decades was an unheated loft on the Bowery, but I still considered myself fortunate; enough so to foster impoverished children in third world countries and send packages of writing supplies to students in Africa – intended, as one wrote me – “to feather our education”.
Global conditions today seem impossibly out of hand and out of sync. Lifestyles of the luxury-living populace as compared to those who sleep on plastic bags in dirt and mud and eat twice a week is staggering, if not criminal.
Our planet is sobbing, is burning, is ravaged and rotting. Those inhabitants who haven’t died in fires and floods, hurricanes and heat, have been humiliated to death or shot to pieces. Most cannot even attest to their horrors. Homeless, destitute, in shock or PTSD, starving slowly, losing hope rapidly, imprisoned or punished for stealing bread to feed their families (shades of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”).
And then, THIS happens: “For every minute a billionaire floats in space, eleven people are dying from hunger around the globe”. * (From a 2021 Oxfam America report).
What mostly orbits the world today is greed. The mega indulgences of the self-entitled wealthy is blaring. It is heartlessness at its worst in the face of a continent longing for relief, countless lives and countries begging to be saved, to ease pain, suffering and the death of masses. A minimal handout that would have a profound impact on earth would amount to pennies for the uber rich.
Jeff Bezos – already a multi-billionaire – who made an additional 250 billion from the pandemic, could singlehandedly fund vaccines for every individual on the planet, and still come out without having affected his bank balance. As if flaunting his personal wealth wasn’t enough he had the hubris to thank on public broadcasting: “every employee because YOU guys paid for all this.”
He’s an old hand at subversive techniques. After commanding an infantry of lobbyists to ensure that tax breaks for Amazon were built into President Biden’s plan to raise corporate taxes, Bezos also employed scores of dirty tactics to prevent Amazon workers from unionizing. Exploitive, arrogant and bald, he lives to make things hairy for the rest of the world.
It is Bezos ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, who has stepped up to the humanitarian plate and royally shamed him, Warren Buffet, Richard Bramson and Bill Gates with her supreme, sensitive conscience and direct charitable actions. Scott pitched three major donations, all grand slams, in 2020.
Her first contribution saw six billion dollars aimed directly to Black colleges, universities and other schools, as well as monies earmarked for Covid relief and gender equality issues. She then unleased two more stunning donations, totaling 5.7 billion that went to 286 carefully researched organizations in need, many to fight equality and initiate social reforms. Leave it to a woman to show the most compassion and offer the realest resolution toward saving or helping those on earth.
But the stars shine brightly in the galaxy. Bright enought to draw the Boy Money-Powers, gleefully stepping into their phallic-like capsules and waving to a mindless populace of followers. It is not a venture to admire in any spiritual, aesthetic or cultural sense. These guys mean business; a very mean business. They are all setting up systems by which to attract other uber wealthy individuals who will pay to be passengers in space. Having run out of ways to entertain on earth in a fiscally-satisfying way and in no way connected to the earth’s woes, they are setting their sights on the stratosphere.
Meantime, in Florida, an entire building collapses. It’s unwarned residents lie buried beneath a thousand tons of rubble. Democracy’s collapse may be just as sudden and violent. Its foundations have alrady been dug at, diminished or removed. The Republican party showed their lust for demolition and direct attack methods on January 6th in Washington, D.C.. They have continued to hammer at Reconciliation attempts, and even threatened to cause more physical harm and havoc should their caustic demands go unheeded.
President Biden is paddling upstream. The current against him – mean-spirited and inherited as it is – will not help him turn the governmental rescue around. Tax loopholes widen, not close, as Republicans methodically shun the IRS’s budgets each year, slashing the agency’s abilities to enforce tax rates on America’s wealthiest – those who currently pay next to nothing or nothing at all. And all of whom saw gains of hundreds of millions into hundreds of billions during the pandemic. Nurses, students and firefighters pay far more in taxes than those making 100 times as much.
The Right wings are flapping, their leaders opposed and furiously nipping any increases to IRS funding that might possibly hold them accountable for their avoidances. They’re like masses of nasty yipping feral dogs – attack-driven and shrill – defending their fortress of taxable wealth. Al Capone must be laughing his head off “upstairs”.
I recently made friends with a Romanian woman whose family were old-time Communists and rebels. Traditional ones, she assured me, the kind of Communists who believed that everyone should be equal and have whatever they need. America’s caste system of wealth vs. poverty (not a new system, but the disparities between have increased to frightening measures over the centuries), can never be fully equitable or rectified. But as long as men blindfold themselves to the human condition and focus on joyrides to space (Hey guys – you can’t take it with you and the staggering amounts in your collective vaults cannot be spent in one lifetime), the discrepencies will ultimately allow whole civilizations to collapse, buried in the neglect.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. so wisely noted, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missles and misguided men”.