FORGIVE this two day delay.
My wife’s stress levels increased each time the woman scowled at her. The fist rejection had made her smile, the second got her heart racing, by third she broke in to a sweat. Here was wealth vs servitude. A woman taking breakfast upon the deck of her luxury yacht annoyed the milk topping her cappuccino wasn’t frothed. My wife joked that the Caribbean cows probably didn’t produce enough froth. Uncomprehending, the woman again demanded she throw away a forth cup and try again. And my wife was doing her a favour - she was abroad to deliver a baby, not to be scolded.
The luxury of a strop over coffee and milk! Well, it’s not only the filthy rich. An American friend of mine bitterly complained about coffee in an English-Italian cafe - and you can’t get better coffee, but it wasn’t what she was used to back in Chicago. Neither my friend, my wife, nor I think we are rich, but there is a huge divide between us and the world’s real poor.
The radio recently talked about the help people across England gave to those living on the streets during a cold snap. One couple, upon seeing another couple sleeping in a shop doorway, asked if they wanted to stay in a hotel for the next few nights. Town halls, meeting rooms and churches threw open their doors to let in those who usually sleep outside. Others went around feeding warm soup and food. I had tears in my eyes as I listened. Had I the strength, I too would have helped.
On the other hand, others we know were annoyed, angry might be a better word, because they couldn’t got up to London to see the opera. We know somebody who complained, “God, it’s awful! We are so poor we can’t spend more than one weekend a month away in a hotel!”
The last time my wife and I stayed in a hotel was three years ago. That was back in the days when we thought we weren’t well off but could eat in restaurants twice month, go to cafes or pubs whenever we felt like it and take two holidays a year - OK, camping trips in France or Spain, but now we can only dream about such pleasures.
Yet we are well off. We have a solid roof over our heads, not plastic sheeting; we eat well every day, not once a week; we can heat the house, not freeze outside around fires of wood stolen from bins.
Wealth really is relative. I remember when we returned from working in the tropics for a charity and we could afford one bottle of cider a week; it was bliss. We saved up to buy a chicken on week four; it was heaven. Yet in the tropics there are people so poor they can not feed their children. In India, selling your kids in the hope that they will have a better life is not uncommon. That is poverty.
Can we create a new economic system which evens things out? I think I’ve made my point, indeed, several points, so I’ll stop.