Thursday, January 3, 2008

America's Overstuffed Pocketbook

I spent the last week in Las Vegas. Sin City. I spent some time driving down its crowded streets, with their familiar glittering signs, beckoning like the electronic calls of modern day sirens.

They say that New York is the center of American commerce, the heart of American capitalism. If so, then Vegas is the heart of American excess. It's a long-standing symbol of Americans who have too much money, and can't think of anything better to do with it than to dispose of it as quickly as possible on as little as possible. It reminds me of that bumper sticker, "Money talks, but all mine says is goodbye." Nowhere on earth is that more true than it is in Vegas, the jewel of the desert.

There's so much excess there it's almost painful to look at. You can shop 'til you drop. You can buy thousands of dollars worth of crap you'll never need, and then buy a two thousand dollar handbag to put it all in. And then, when you're done shopping, you can drop thousands of dollars or more on gambling. Or, heck, why not give it all to a stripper for a two minute lapdance?

Vegas is a glowing symbol of everything that's wrong with the world. We hoard wealth. Then, rather than sharing that wealth, we choose to throw it all away. We put it in the pockets of people who have made a science out of hoarding wealth. They then take that wealth and build us bigger, more beautiful monuments to excess in which we can throw away even more of our wealth. It's a sickening cycle. It's like we're trying to find newer, more creative ways to not do anything about poverty.

It's especially sickening in light of the fact that both extremes, poverty and excess, can be seen existing right next to each other, in stark contrast to one another. There are homeless people on one street corner, and a quick glance in the opposite direction nets you a breathtaking view of America's overstuffed pocketbook.

No comments: