Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rich Man, Poor Man

There is a lot of talk, continually, about the divide between the rich and the poor.  The rich get richer, so it seems, and the poor get poorer - NOT. The poor have gained far more, frankly. Comparisons are made, largely by the poorer or those who protest on their behalf - or so they claim. Yet rich and poor have almost lost their meaning in our modern western world.

'Poor' is often classified as a bit below 'average' wage. Rich is - in Oz at least - classified as three times the average wage (and above). Here average is $60 odd thousand a year. If you earn $180,000 you are indeed quite well off.  Rich? Poor?

I was once quite well off. Now I am poor. That goes for both in the Persona of Amfortas the ancient Tavern Keeper and the King he once was, and the modestly retired professional man who I am in reality. I am as poor as he, and yet neither of us feels it particularly.

Back in his day he lived in a castle and was Lord of a Kingdom. It took three wenches half a day to prepare his bath. The wood fire had to be lit; water had to be drawn from the well and heated; the pots had to be brought upstairs to the room wherein the King's bath sat. It was a wooden tub, allbeit nicely carved.

He and I now turn a tap and have flowing hot water. The rich man likes his bathwater at roughly the same temperature as the poor man. The water is the same for both. Available 24/7. Immediately.

He ate quite well.  The poor, not so well. The food came from the village fields nearby.  Scarcity was the norm, though and sometimes he would have to go without for uncomfortable periods. Ours now come from all over the world and is readily available regardless of panics or local catastrophies.

His wine and mine come from the same vinyards in distant lands and from down the road. We both have now a vastly wider variety of beverages than he was used to, but today's rich man may spend vastly more for a bottle. It is quaffed in similar time though and does a similar job on the taste buds whether one is rich or poor.

If he wished to communicate with the Ruler in the next Kingdom 50 miles away he would send a messenger. It would take three horses and a whole day before a brief reply was recieved back.  The roads were frankly terrible and subject to the vagaries of the weather. The carriages - should what passed for 'comfort' be required - were open to the elements.

Now we can talk face to face on Skype. Indeed we can have long, detailed and warm conversations with people on the other side of the planet. The speed of the digital signal is no faster for the rich man than for the poor man. 
It is sheer magic to an old King.

Were we to want to go to some place near or further we can use a car on splendidly smooth roads. The poor man's car is no less reliable than the rich man's, if properly maitained, and keeps to the same speed limits.  Both have to buy fuel which costs them, modestly, the same. The rich man may pay far more for his car, but it offers very little 'value added' for the added cost.  The poor man's car is magical to an old King too.

Should it have taken his fancy to go to a far off land, say 500 miles away, it would be a very long and involved trip, with many people to pack his wagons and slowly grind their way down rough tracks. He would not be back in the same season. Now he can take a plane and be 500 miles away in two hours: a thousand in three. He can be sitting in a comfy chair on the other side of the world in the time it took for his messenger to travel 200 miles.

The rich man today will sit in the front of the plane and the poor man will be 5 metres away behind him in the same plane. The rich man's seat will not arrive more than a second or two before the poor man's. The plane will not fly faster for the rich man.

Many poor people fly long distances simply in order to walk in a strange city's streets to complain about that rich man having more money. They may divert themselves by breaking the windows of people they do not know.

My small home is far better equipped than the Old King could ever expect. My armchair has a foam interior rather than straw.  It is free of lice. Same with my bed. The rich man now sleeps in similar comfort to the poor man.

Please do not even ask about  the old King's toilets !!  Suffice to say that the rich man today has a WC that is no different in form and function than the poor man's. His daily deliveries go into the same sewers.

He didn't have a fridge, way back then. We do now.  His 'home' was cold; the poor man today has a heated and often cooled house  controlled by him according to seasonal requirement and personal whim.  

Yes, his home is far smaller than a castle but vastly better equipped, warmer, more comfortable and more secure. Nor did the old King have a TV. Or a radio. He had to hire and pay a Court Jester. Now we are inundated with the little buggers for virtually free. Stop laughing - they are rarely funny. 

The rich man's fridge may be larger but no colder.  His TV has the same tripe on it as the poor man's. His radio is fed by the same spin doctors or country bumpkins as the poor man's. There are more nonebrities around today, both rich and poor.

Despite the scarcity of decent cultural fare today, a  pop star or TV 'personality' can 'earn' $60 million a year and be praised, cheered, lauded, and their every word believed. A CEO of a modest commercial kingdom making $60 million profit - providing a return to the investors - and employing 200 people who can because of that live in modest comfort, and being paid $2 million a year, is denounced as greedy, a liar and an exploiter. Go figure.

What has brought about this substantial change? Capitalism, Freedom. Trade. Enterprise. 

Be content.

You have plenty.

It matters not that the rich chap across the way has more.

Have a drink. The Ale here is priceless.


1 comment:

Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..