23 January 2012

Post 471: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

The Book of Tomorrow, by Cecilia Ahern. ISBN: 9780061706301.

Our narrator almost redeems herself right off the bat by telling us that she realizes now, cast out of her previous, glamorous life into relative squalor in the countryside, that when she was living in a huge mansion with all the stuff she could ever want, she was pretty much an insufferable, spoiled brat. That redemption didn't pan out for me in reading the book, but at least it gives me a jumping-off point to talk about the one thing that gets me angrier than anything else: economic inequality.

The tl;dr is: I hate rich people. I kind of can't help it. Racism, sexism, oppression, environmental destruction; they don't get under my collar nearly as much as someone suggesting that anyone at all can solve their problems with money. I encountered this a lot in college, and the worst part is, I don't think that these people do this to be mean. They're thoughtless, yes, selfish perhaps, but they simply are ignorant of the problems that people without a lot of money have to face. Things like, "I can't get that book for my class because I have to feed myself this week." And that lack of malevolence is the hardest part, because you can't hate someone for not knowing. For not trying, yes, but first you have to educate.

Unfortunately, no one's doing the education. Rich kids get brought up in gated communities and private schools with other rich kids. They never have to go anywhere outside their little spheres of money because everything is provided for them. When they grow up, they expect everything to be provided for them because that's just how they were brought up. It takes a serious wake-up call to break someone out of that mindset.

This is what I say to people when they suggest things like, "We shouldn't overtax the rich because they made that money and they deserve it." Well, when mommy and daddy buy them everything all their life and they just inherit the money, do they really deserve it? Someone on a message board cheesed me off big time once by suggesting that, yes, they do, because they "carry on the family name." Ignoring the fact that only sons would be worthy of such an inheritance, I found that statement unspeakably ridiculous. Carry on a family name? So they get rewarded for simply being born? No one cares what your name is if you lose everything and wind up on the street. The American dream is not to be born into a wealthy family, but to build an empire and become rich through hard work and dedication.

Of course, the American dream is dead. It's a myth at this point, and its perpetuation just leads people to set their dreams high and suffer disappointment as they crumble. We may all be created equal(ly), but that doesn't mean we all have equal opportunities. The circumstances you grow up in are the ones you're most likely to stay in. We like focusing on the success stories, the people who rise from nothing to become these famous stars or lead multimillion dollar corporations, but they stand out because they're the exceptions. For every one of those people are hundreds of thousands more who are in the ghetto, who will have kids who stay in the ghetto, and the cycle will continue.

And that's what's always made me so angry, I think. My family was working-class, not so poor that we couldn't afford to have nice things every once in a while, but often living above our means and too poor to do things like save money or buy really nice things, like say, extra cars. And now here I am, stuck in a crap, dead-end job that just barely pays enough for me to make payments on my student loans, with no real out in sight, while some bimbo who can't be arsed to remember her teacher's name is going to go through college -- paid for by mommy and daddy -- go into business and make a ton of money while never having to lift a finger. Yeah, I think that would make anyone a little mad.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no way around this except to make these people go from ignoring the poor to hating them. I'm a big proponent of wealth distribution, but honestly, I don't think that goes far enough. I want to see salary caps. No one really needs to make more than $100k, as far as I'm concerned, maybe $200k if I'm feeling generous. Because, yeah, I'm sure running an entire company is hard work, assuming you're actually doing some kind of work, but you sure as hell don't deserve hundreds of millions of dollars a year (plus multimillion bonuses!) for working your slaves to death and exploiting everyone you can lay your hands on just so a room full of rich stockholders can get richer.

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He is currently the editor of Lib's LIB

LibsNote: This post was originally written January 30, 2011 to give the regular blogger a break. 
Dan Walker received a review copy from the FirstReads program at Goodreads.
This was posted late because I totally planned to get something written, but SHIT HAS HAPPENED that needed taking care of. Should be back next week.

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