Friday, January 30, 2009

Stop and Think Some More

I've been railing to anyone who will listen--as I'm sure many have--about the outrageous greed, arrogance, and even criminality of the corporate executives whose companies have received bailouts from us and who are using money to reward themselves with bonuses that are insane in the best of times and to buy lavishly appointed jets and outrageously expensive office furniture that doesn't even make sense. And then to justify their actions, they say things like if we don't pay these bonuses, we won't attract the best talent. The best talent?!!! You mean the talent to drive the financial system and everyone's 401K into the ground?

I remember in the 1980's when Reagen took on the welfare queens--women who were scamming the system and collecting multiple checks--regaling us with stories about a Cadillac-driving, fur wearing welfare mom. These guys from New York make her look like a piker. The sense of undeserved entitlement is mind boggling. These guys think they are playing a game--a winner's game--where there are no consequences and no matter how badly you screw up, you never lose. And in this game, we all are the bank, like in a Monopoly game, dispensing endless qualities of money whenever they want it. What kind of fantasy universe are they living in?

Apparently the same one I am and this is where this post finally relates to Haiti. For I don't want to let the above guys off the hook--they truly are criminal--but when I examine my assumptions and expectations about my standard of living as it relates to the majority of people in Haiti and other developing countries, I find my world view too similar to that of the head of Merrill Lynch. I have my comfortable, warm, water tight home, a never ending supply of food, vacations to look forward to, my own car, my own computer, and really all the books I want to buy. And the Haitians? Well, they're eating too many mud pies or not at all.

How do the terrible living conditions (to put it mildly) of the people in Haiti relate to the way I--or you--live? Well, they do, my friends, they do, even if it's as simple as that I could use more of my disposable income to buy food for people in Haiti. The more complicated, systemic reasons that the developed world's standard of living comes at the cost of those who were unfortunate to be born in poor countries is detailed in Paul Farmer's book, "The Uses of Haiti" which I will summarize in future posts.

For now, suffice to say, there is plenty of blame to go around.

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