A part of me doesn’t want to write about this because it makes me uncomfortable, but I was affected so deeply I know that I must.
On Thursday, I went into San Francisco and while there, walked through a BART station corridor covered with ads for Gap. The walls and floor showed image after image of beautiful people wearing denim with the slogan: “1969: new generation.” All throughout the corridor, homeless people were passed out or holding up cardboard signs asking for money. One man sat on the floor, on top of the Gap ad, with his back against the wall, head held down with matted hair, literally covered in his own feces. That was the encounter that broke me.
The juxtaposition of a man, wearing jeans no less, covered in his own crap while sitting on an ad touting a time period of turmoil and change was too much for me, the irony too great. I walked away feeling helpless and downtrodden because what am I, little old me, supposed to do about this? I am not a policymaker, I am not a housing developer, I’m a journalist, so I’m doing what I do best: writing about it.
When people talk about the American dream, about there being no limits to the heights they can reach and the money they can make, they forget there is a price. P.R. Sarkar says, “[W]hen capitalists declare, ‘We have amassed wealth by our talent and labor. If others have the capacity and diligence, let them also do the same; nobody prevents them,’ they do not care to realize that the volume of commodities on the Earth is limited, whereas the requirement is common to all. Excessive individual affluence, in most cases, deprives others of the minimum requirements of life.”
We are all in this together so that means, no, one person should not be allowed to accumulate massive amounts of wealth unchecked. To do so, the uber wealthy “reduce others to skin and bones gnawed by hunger and force them to die of starvation; to dazzle people with the glamour of their garments, they compel others to wear rags,” Sarkar writes. That’s exactly what I witnessed on Thursday and I’m not OK with it. We are one big family, literally, and it’s time we started acting like it.
I’m writing to say the world doesn’t have to be this way, we don’t have to say “yes” to this. Alternatives exist such as Prout, the Progressive Utilization Theory. It’s a paradigm of development that places economic power in the hands of people and communities, nurtures living beings, promotes equity, ends exploitation, and maintains sustainable balance with the biosphere.
If Prout doesn’t float your boat, that’s OK, but something needs to change. We can’t keep going on like we have, that much is clear. I don’t know how this new economy will come about, or what action needs to occur. All I know is in the meantime, I’m talking about it with you. I’m telling as many people as I can because I want to live in a better world and I really believe we can make it so.
I dream of a world where homelessness is eradicated. A world where there is a cap on wealth. A world where everyone’s basic needs are met. A world where we take care of each other because we recognize we are one, big, universal family. A world where we do better than this.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.