While flicking through the TV channels the other day I was amazed at the number of TV reality shows dealing with the lives of the more affluent members of the world's society. I remember a number of years ago there was a show called "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" which was quite popular with the "wealthy wannabees" of the time. Today there are shows about the Forbe's 500, the people who own the most expensive homes in the UK and the US, the Great Lodges of North America, exclusive resorts such as the new Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the most expensive yachts in the world. Then there are shows about the everyday lives of people,who have so much money they don't know what to do with it, like the Kardashians.
Are people so bored with their lives that they have to stay glued to these shows in hopes of a better life? I realize that all of us, even though we are living a quite comfortable life, often wish we had more money or more creature comforts. But there is no way in hell that any of us will have the excesses that we observe on these TV shows. Us common folk have a nice place to live, but may wish for an even better place. We may have a nice car but we may wish for a Lamborghini or Maserati. We may all wish to hobnob with the very wealthy and royalty and drink and dine at the most expensive clubs and restaurants in the world. I guess this is only natural and I am sure that every human being on earth does the same.
Just as I am sure that all of those people who watch these shows wish for more, I am sure there are people who have never seen these shows and never will, are wishing for more. Like the millions of people who don't have a home to live in wish they could have a tent. Like the millions of people who don't have anything to eat wish they had a bowl of rice. Like the people who have to watch their children die of malnutrition or disease wish they could have help to save them. Even in the US there are people who have lost their homes or are on the verge of losing their homes, who are only wishing for a chance to save everything.
We see emerging economies such as China and India, where there is a new class of super wealthy. These countries are now brand conscious and are the newest and best customers of companies such as Gucci, Tiffany's and Rolls Royce. But what we don't realize is that the people in China and India who can afford this new lifestyle make up less than 1 percent of the population. There are vast areas of both countries where there is little or no electricity or running water and millions of people live way below the poverty line. It is interesting that even here in the US also 1 percent of the population controls the wealth of the country, while the rest of the population is considerably less well off.
In todays global economic downturn it is difficult to understand how the very few wealthy are becoming even more wealthy, often at the expense of the less fortunate. In this country we see strong opposition in Congress to programs that offer assistance to the poor and unemployed, such as extending unemployment benefits or expanding food stamps. Yet at the same time we see these same politicians strongly oppose any measure that would have the super rich pay their fare share of taxes. Often we hear accusations of socialism, as if it were a cancer, threatening the status of the elite upper classes. There seems to be a battle now between the political left and right, where one wants to improve the lives of the less unfortunate and the other want so keep them where they are. Even one former presidential candidate blamed the poor for being poor. It seems that kindness, civility and charity have been replaced by greed and selfishness.
What is really ironic to me is that the millions of people who watch TV shows flaunting the lifestyles of wealthy, secretly wish they had the same lifestyle, even though they probably also secretly resent these people, are actually making these people even more wealthy than they already are. Economically and socially I think things will continue to be screwed up until everybody stops thinking of themselves only and start thinking of others.