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Do Those In Private Luxury Really Want Public Squalor?

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Mi Casa es Siu Casa

While my family is anything but wealthy, we live in a high rent district, also known as Disneyland, also known as the West side of Los Angeles. I do the family shopping in downtown Beverly Hills, and frequent its restaurants and bars. I take my children to the same ice cream and pizza parlors that are favorite haunt of numerous celebrities. Ferraris driven by kids roar by with annoying regularity. Beautiful women with unattractive, balding husbands stroll by carrying shopping bags filled with expensive stuff they don’t need.

Along these busy, wealthy streets, with their cupcake emporiums, designer frozen yogurt stops, and concept-driven Korean restaurants, life is very, very good.

For most.

There are also far more bums than there used to be, scrawny, desperate, drug-addled bums, who have nothing at all to look forward to, but death. They sleep, still and sad, with their twisted plastic bags in awkward positions in the manicured parks. They beg for change, they bring their grimy cups into the coffee bars, ignoring the repugnant stares of the turned-out shop girls and junior agents.

The contrast between wealth and poverty in Beverly Hills is very painful. It is also steeped in history. Early modern to Victorian London was very similar. Stumbling syphilitics, child prostitutes, urchins, gin-drunks, and peddlars shared public space with aristocrats, who wore nosegays to hide the smell, and had their servants clear a path for their sedan chairs in the mud.

There came a time when enough people with Private luxury became disgusted with the idea that so much of humanity with whom they shared a city were so utterly degraded. And so began the Britain that exists now, which is grounded in a substantial, although fluid social contract. There are slide towards and away from greater social justice, but nobody dies in the gutter.

America’s social contract is in tatters, and part of the reason is that the degradation, up until now, was kept in its ghetto. Fired up by the rural red voters, for whom life is pretty monchromatic and the contrasts limited, Romney and Ryan are storming to take us back the past. If they get their way, and restore their version of “real” America ( which of course is utterly fake ), there will be more bums on the streets of Beverly Hills.

And if there are, a time will come when those in private luxury will become sickened by the sight of the renewed public squalor that’s congregating at their al-fresco lunch tables as they tuck into a light summer salad, and cold glass of Chablis. My hunch is that enough of them will have enough of a conscience to suggest that the public squalor needs to be reduced, if only to clear their urban vista of detritus. They know people, they have influence, they buy elections.

They may realize that they have taken their amoral selfishness too far


Written by coolrebel

August 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Washington

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