Thursday, February 4, 2016

Excess, what does it look like?

Versace zebra pants,
$850, sold out.

Regular folks are a bit put off by an ostentatious lifestyle. Bizarrely expensive cars, palatial houses, expensive meals, and prestigious wristwatches; it's all cringe-worthy.

How does someone get persuaded to such life values?  Is it by easily acquired wealth? Is it from being pampered by family or culture?  In a burgeoning economy, can personal luxury and comfort become the center of an individual's attention and life purpose?  Of course.

House of Palestinian businessman on the West Bank

Most agree that such lifestyle choices are shallow and of little substance, and we're pleased to note that we ourselves live a more reasonable life, that we're more concerned with things that really matter.

We'd perhaps buy $200 shoes, but certainly not $2000 shoes.

Interestingly, a nice $200 pair of shoes costs more than a month's income for half the world.  Uh oh.

For half of the world, the typical job tops out at perhaps $200/month. Resort workers in the Dominican Republic make $80-$180.  A luxury hotel concierge in Djibouti makes $170.  A service station worker in western Africa makes perhaps $65.  A security guard working 60 hours per week in Mombasa, Kenya makes $60/month.  The average state salary in Cuba is $25/month.
(The world median income is about $5/day/person.  In the developed world, the average is about $55/day/person.)

Startling illustrations by Cordaid paint the reality, perhaps a little too clearly.
Success for most of the world is simple; just food, clothing, shelter, and perhaps education possibilities for the kids so they can maybe have a better life. Folks farther down the ladder of wealth know they work harder than most, that opportunity is rare because of exploitation, and that their economy is artificially structured for the benefit of the few. For them, the existence of such excessive luxury elsewhere is a low-grade slap in the face. What do they think when they see the Kardashian-esque world? Mindless blobs living meaningless and valueless lives, that's what they see. Are they right?

The reasonable question that follows, what does our own position on the ladder suggest, and what might we do to sort it out meaningfully? It's for each to answer personally, not for others to judge, but it does require an answer. 
Somehow, it has to make sense.