Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 1, 1999)
ne-fourth of humanity lives a comfortable life. Surrounded by an
abundance of opportunities, goods, health care, cars, computers,
money and wealth; survival is the least of the concerns of the affluent,
k The objective for the affluent has become the pursuit of objects
\ in themselves. Where once technology and production assisted
in coping with the diff culties of life, the reproduction and
hoarding of resources is now
--v the primary objective.
\ This fascination and
compulsion tor wealth
has reached out
\ tions. An
/ Press dispatch
reported that the
“dog (owners) cul
ture” in New York
City spends 500 mil
^ lion dollars a year
on their animals.
There are 19
that serve and deliver
dog food to order.
There are dog psychia
trists, a limo service for
dogs, a workshop for
'l dog actors, a
wash and an
upscale dog fash
ion industry that
iells tuxedos, wedding
blazers and lin
^A) gerie - all for
In the mid
_- 1980s, during the
I Cabbage Patch
selling fur coats to “dot
ing grandmas and
who wanted then
rag doll to be the
best-dressed toy on the block.
Most coats sold were $50 and
were made of rabbit fur. For the
truly socially upwardly mobile
Cabbage Patch Kid, $ 1,000 chin
chilla fur coats were made on
The item became so popular that
orders for the coats became backlogged for months:
A former Nebraska CEO of Level 3 Communications last year purchased an 11,000 square foot
home for $7.8 million.
The home overlooks the Rocky Mountains, has 10 bathrooms and a granite driveway leading to
a 4,400-square-foot garage. The CEO received nearly $70 million in compensation pay from Level
3’s parent company in 1997.
The owner/CEO is listed as being only in the top 20 highest paid positions in the country; there
are approximately 20 more people in the country who make even more money than he does.
These are the most extreme cases of pathological wealth obsession. However, all social classes
in America, particularly the middle class, have been infected with consumerism.
As each new consumer item is introduced, corporate economists use the media to manu
facture a need for it, a market. This has happened for every item you and I own.
As each market expands, the affluent American mass (you and I and
probably everyone in your view) indoctrinates the new product into
our perceived need, l ms leads to an overworked and overspent
America, in which family values and basic human compassion
play less and less important roles.
The capitalist machine, although insuring our eco
nomic growth, Jias alienated us from meaning and
destroyed our conceptions of humanistic fraternity by
emphasizing selfish values and material success.
_ * mvm, v/v/iwuuh a, mm xyniiii iiDunnonnn ■ 1 nuu i
hree-fourths of humanity resides in the social bowels of disempowerment and
poverty. Their position is mostly unknown to the affluent. While the affluent bask in
self-indulgence and luxury, the wretched of the earth live in the masses of rubbish produced
by the affluent.
In a city not necessarily a part of the “Third World,” the wretched co-exist with the afflu
ent. Reduced to a routine of daily fighting with predacious rodents for rotten bread, the
wretched battle for survival daily.
The winner of the battle not only eats the bread needed to scrape out another day’s sub
sistence but eventually eats the loser as well.
The image stalks the affluent’s insecurity the first time they acknowledge this side of
humanity and continues to do so until the affluent find a means to justify their prosperity in
contrast to the suffering of the wretched.
The sight of the wretched easily emotionally belittles the affluent. Imagine, a 5-year-old
disfigured human form, wearing a suit of car smog and lice as it begs for change.
The child mimes through the scorched black pavement, sniveling through ambiguous
traffic, oblivious to the half-hearted teases from death’s wheels.
With utter disregard of fear and norms, the tormented boy resorts to standing in front of
an oncoming speeding car to attract the attention, and hopefully the help of someone from
“the other half.” Death does not seem to be such a bad alternative to the child’s ill-conceived
If the boy is lucky, the driver of the car will throw out a coin or two, prolonging the
child’s life before he is buried between the tires and the pavement.
Still, in another land, and often even our own, famine and malnutrition have replaced
every sensual pleasure with unending, agonizing, disdainful pain.
The wretched, form caravans of fleshless pilgrims, wandering the world’s deserts, slowl>
dying* perhaps at once dead and alive. They are searching for a better life, an instance of
worldly peace before they enter the eternal peace of the next world.
A man carries his son - or the bones that were his son - in his arms and offers him to the
wind in a reverent upholding, to be swept away by the ubiquitous angels that follow death’s
Dehydrated and sapped of any natural vitality, the
man hasn’t the strength to produce
another tear in this tender moment.
The intensity and
endurance of v ^
agony and t \,
despair have chis
eled on the man’s
face a sadistic per
manence that pre
son’s life is a
trivial gift to
force that he
stand or con
he affluent and the wretched are paradoxical illustrations of the dichotomy that divides humanity: con
sumer protection from the senses of living vs. the bombardment of all the senses of life from a lack of
While three-fourths of humanity, the wretched die, of starvation; we (the affluent) will die in a dogmatic
defense of our right to over-eat.
We must remember that it’s only by fortune that it is not you and me eating with the rats in a trash dump.
In the words of the immortal Che Guevara, we must, “always be capable of feeling any injustice committed
anywhere in the world.”
text by David Baker
art by Shawn Drapal
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