I remember a trip to Disney World with my two boys back in the summer of '87. I was in my early 30s and poor as bloody hell -- various family members had scraped the bucks together to send us all there. So there we were. I noticed a Brazilian family. I could tell, by the prominent Brazilian logo on their t-shirts. Smiling man and wife, my age, pushing a baby stroller loaded up with balloons. They were rich. Every they had told me that. Shoes, clothes, sunglasses, various Sharper Image-type gear – it was all new and shiny. Their baby stroller probably cost more than my car.
It occurred to me, shit, over in Brazil, these are the people at the top of the pyramid. And here they are in Disney World having the time of their lives. They don’t give a shit about all the peasants combing through garbage dumps in the shack cities around Rio.
Then it occurred to me, shit, I’m no better. America keeps its cheap labor overseas, out of sight, out of mind. Our Triangle Shirtwaist Factories are in China someplace. That doesn’t let America off the hook.
Then it occurred to me, if the American economy ever collapsed – if there was a big fucking shake-up and we wound up like Brazil, the people at the top would go on smiling through their lives – just like this young, pretty wealthy Brazilian family smiling its way through the Magic Kingdom. Let’s say America has another Great Depression and the fatcats yank the New Deal/Great Society rug right from under our feet and we all fall on our collective ass. Let’s say America winds up with big mass of poor people, a desperate sliver of a middle class hanging on for dear life and a few fats at the top of the pyramid. Americas rich could live with favelas and not lose a minute of fucking sleep. They’d keep on smiling. Enjoying the good life and feeling entitled. Shit, they’re walling themselves up in fated communities right now.
If that ever happened, I wondered which one of my rich friends would let me sleep in the garage. Assuming I had any rich friends left.