“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” ― Immanuel Kant
I once spent time on a tobacco farm in a small town in Kentucky. The land owners, rich and humble, were still overseers. The migrant workers lived in a large dorm-like building with beds, a kitchen and bathrooms. The beds were spaced apart for privacy, but there were no room dividers. It was very clean, temperate and well appointed yet it was still just a giant room where grown men had to live together for meager wages. Couldn’t the landowners have truly shared their wealth with the men who did dangerous and back-breaking work every day? What if they'd each had a small home where brothers or friends could be roommates, and spouses and children could come and join them and wages to support a family? Wouldn't this be more humane?
The land owner told me a story. One of the workers came from Guanajuato Mexico to work on the farm and quickly found his new job to be untenable. I was young and very fit back then and helped plant one day, it was brutal. This young man was so distraught that he packed his bags and left after just a few days. He was walking down the road trying to get back home to Mexico when the landowners and his brother, also a worker on the farm, drove down and found him. The owners escorted him back home via airplane and spent some time with his family. This surely created a tighter bond and more trust between the owners and this family of workers. The land owners did their best to be good people; however, they were in an industry that included marginal employment of a corral of men hired on as workhorses, and it just didn’t sit quite right.
Yes, we can have industry and hire workers. No, we cannot sit in ivory towers like Jeff Bezos (worth an estimated $178.4 billion) is doing today while his Whole Food workers are expected to have face time with hundreds of potentially COVID ridden members of the public each day. One person should not possess such wealth and if they do, they should not be allowed to exploit others to keep their deep pockets from tearing.
|Our Present Image (detail) by David Alfaro Siqueiros (MoMA)|
“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.” ― Kofi Annan