Sunday, July 24, 2011

If I had a million dollars, I'd buy you . . .

 Money, money, money
Coleus, coleus, coleus
I’m a bit preoccupied with money these days. Oh, I know; “a bit preoccupied” is an oxymoron. I should say that when I’m at work, I’m preoccupied with money matters and when I’m at home, well, I’m enjoying the relief of not thinking about that for a while, except that the news tends to intrude. 
Let me explain:
*     I do payroll for the actors and crew in the production currently running for 31 performances at the Station Arts Centre. Our core is made up of actors who belong to the Canadian Actors Equity Association, a professional union. Others are not. They are paid differently and receive unequal remuneration for doing, basically, the same job. None receive a fair living wage when the blood sweat and tears they throw into the work, the working hours, the itinerant nature of their profession—they’re always job hunting—are considered.
*     We are silently auctioning a donated painting by a talented local artist at the Station. The bidding has gone from $200.00 to $350.00 so far. A painting in our gallery was purchased recently by a patron for $3,000+.
*     What’s the right price for a great dinner out? How much is a ticket to Jasper Station or a Canadian Tenors concert worth? The dollars patrons pay for the entertainment product we provide is seldom enough to cover the cost of producing it. What happens when cultural grants dry up federally—which they probably will under the current balance-the-budget drive?
*     A commentator on the East African famine said that there was food to be had in Somalia, but with increasing prices, the majority of people simply hadn’t the money to buy any of it. Should we help people in this dilemma by sending money? And if so, how much would be fair? Will one child live who would otherwise die if I send a hundred dollars? Five hundred? 75 cents?

The desk at which I’m sitting along with the computer on which I’m composing could be sold for more than the average two-thirds world farm family is “worth.” Should I sell them? do my writing at the kitchen table with a pencil? send the difference to Africa? Should I at least feel guilty about my good fortune?
    One thing seems clear to me in all this. Inequities—whether in the area of arts & culture or in the availability of food—are systemic. They are symptoms of problems of policy, the failures of national governments and international monetary systems, the rapidly-increasing control of multinational corporations over the marketplace. To try to patch up the symptoms with band aids is one thing; to insist that the policies change to prevent the next famine takes the real courage. Have I got it? Have you?
    Two actions we can take now. Send $500.00 for Eastern Africa to MCC or a similar organization that you trust. You can find it. Write letters to your MP and your MLA to tell them you favour keeping the Canadian Wheat Board in place. If it dies, the most vigorous hurrahs will come from Cargill and the other mega-corporations that are determined to control all the world’s food resources for profit.
    You may be thinking: what a crass subject for a Sunday morning. If you’re headed off to church today, though, one facet of the worship service will undoubtedly be the passing of the offering plate. Yet one more money decision: do I put in a tooney, a twenty or a two-hundred dollar cheque?

Have a relaxing Sunday . . . anyway!   


1 comment:

  1. Hank Feld writes:

    Hi, George -

    When I read your Window piece this Sunday morning and got to the section that asks what our responsibilities are re Somalia, and what it represents re. “inequities”, I kept saying, “Yes! Yes!”
    I have thought about this issue most of my life and, although it’s not a simple matter, I have a strong bias which I’ll share here:
    I believe that one specific moral issue that our era (post W.W. 2, say) will be remembered for, is the existing world state re the haves and the have-nots. The discrepancies are as clear as they are, by and large, indefensible. I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but my hunch is that history will not look fondly on how we responded.
    It is true that individuals can’t change this situation fundamentally (although I don’t minimize the importance of letters to MP’s and MLA’s, and letters to editors and participation in applicable demonstrations, and etc.), for me the issue must essentially falls to individuals. Us.
    We can ameliorate the inequities. When I personally see hungry and/or malnourished babies and children and adults in a variety of countries -- Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the island countries of Nevis and Dominica (not to be confused with Dominican Republic) -- I know that there are fewer desperate people because of individuals donating money to, for example, the Canadian Food Grains Bank which has an excellent record of low administrative costs which ensures that most of each dollar actually gets to the ones the monies are intended for. This doesn’t resolve the enormous world problem of inequities, but it makes a difference to identifiable, specific people.
    What I’ve said here may make some feel guilty. Well, tough. I know guilt is often the result of nasty manipulation; perhaps, though, there’s a guilt that’s appropriate, a legitimate guilt that leads to action.
    What takes courage for me, George, is not insisting that political policies change in order to avoid a famine. It takes a little bit of courage to write this kind of (public) letter and risk being thought of as self-righteous. That doesn’t feel good. Most of all, what takes courage for me is to put my money where my mouth is. To act on my convictions. That’s where the rubber hits the road the paper hits the plate!