Friday, 3 August 2012

Earthly Paradise or Living Hell?

London, one of the most amazingly beautiful, culturally diverse places on this planet. East London, where I live, is a place of hope for the privileged and despair for the unfortunate. A clear divide between the rich and poor. As I look out of my windows I'll give you a glimpse of what I see and tell you what I know.  

I see cars that cost more than houses being privately parked by valets, whilst the poor fight and struggle to get a parking space on the streets. I see security guards patrolling and protecting assets whilst at the same time keeping out those of no monetary value. ME. I see well groomed communal gardens, maintained to a high standard set aside for the wealthy whilst the 'not so wealthy' others have to find a dirty old park somewhere else to stretch their legs. I see multi-million pound flats all around me, unoccupied most of the year whilst others live in damp, over-crowded housing conditions, waiting on a list for something better, like a decent place to live. 

Walk our streets and see the private nurseries, over priced designer shops, high end restaurants, cafeterias and top class hotels then look at the prices and tell me who this is for. Yachts of all shapes and sizes are docked by our window. Speed boats zoom by on a warm day, flaunting their wealth for all to see. Now listen to the locals, those who were here before money took over and you will hear a different story. 

Something that outsiders don't always see is that my London is splitting at the seams. The riots were evidence of this tension spilling out into the mainstream. For a brief moment the public were exposed to the frustration, violence and fury that are an everyday reality for many.

For some, the difference between heaven and hell is the balance of your bank account.

Please listen carefully to the words of this 2.48 minute video from George the Poet, a young 21 yr old man studying at Cambridge University who gives us an alternative view of London. It's brilliant. 

How's life in your neck of the woods?
Do you see such a huge contrast where you live?
What are the tensions in your area?
Is what is happening in London unique or typical of big cities across the world?
Isn't the divide between rich and poor wider now than it was before?

23 comments:

  1. Your post is about the materialistic society we live in. It is also quite scary to see generation x to z are all defined by what modern technology each generation loves to play with

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    1. So the issue then, in your view, is not so much the difference between what people have or don't have but rather the way we have come increasingly to define ourselves in terms of what we possess. Rather than... I suppose that's another discussion isn't it.

      I hope I have understood you right. Thanks James for your comment.

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  2. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen here in the US; in fact, that's pretty much what started the Occupy Wall Street movement...the 99% vs the 1%. The fear-mongering media has done a lot to propogate misinformation to the general public here, the biggest tensions of which seem to center around the economy and religion influencing politics. This is precisely why Mitt Romney is such a terrible choice for America...he's ultra-wealthy and ultra-religious, and has nothing in common with the rest of us.

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    1. Yes, I suppose it's more than just London that is tearing at the seams. The whole of Europe seems to be on the brink. Certainly the Occupy Movement in various countries represent a more creative, coherent, rational and constructive response to the global crisis than the riots which devastated large areas of London exactly 1 year ago.

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  3. I live in a gorgeous apartment with central air, a whirlpool tub, marble counter top. WHY? Because the money to revitalize that end of the city fell through. so for 700 a month I live in an apartment that is worth $2000, shhhhhh.

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    1. I'm glad to hear it Jamie. Would love to have a whirl pool but for now I can just splash around in the bath tub.

      Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, when disaster hits, those that are most vulnerable are dealt the hardest blow. You may have heard your Italian grandmother say 'it is always the barefoot that have to walk on the thorns'.

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  4. You know...

    I can give you the easy answer or I can give you the difficult one.

    As I suppose you already guessed, I am going to give you both!

    Just for the exhilaration of writing! :)

    Humankind gave up the elegance of balance since one of us realized that closing the hand it could hold something (and call it its own) or use the fist to smash the face of a fellow. From then on our Earthly Paradise started the degradation that will flow into the delta of our Living Hell, to quote your title.

    We crossed the V1 mark, or point of no return, many, many aeons ago. Everything else is just a condiment to this haggis where we cook the hearts, livers, and lungs of our own species. This is the easy way to define our own evil.

    In a more detailed fashion, we must look the development of the previous idea. The first step was the hand, but later it went into a bag, saddlebags, and as the amount of "saved" things grew, there were also new ways to keep them.

    All this went right until the number of "keepers" grew so big that things to be kept were scarce or cumbersome. So in a long jump over the years, not to make the story too long, we created a representative of "things", called it money and invented Banks and other institutions to take care of our possession.

    As time went on, each one of the keepers tended to develop into two strains: those who wanted to be admired for their wealth, and those who liked to be left alone with all the things they worshipped. As with all human things, there are grades, of course.

    From there on, after I started walking the world, I found that the "disease" is a real pandemic that affect most, if not all of us.

    The bigger the city, and when it is clotted with too many keepers, fewer are the opportunities to get "things" or its representative, money.

    So the only solution is to widen the gap between those with it, and those without. And it is war, unkind, cruel war.

    When I was working in one of the privileged area of the world, the Côte d'Azur, I saw people squander big amounts of money in Casinos in a few minutes and in a way that you can call it a felony, an act against humankind, and I am sure that if I confronted them, they would not know what I was talking about. This last part a
    transgression bigger than any other.

    So here we are, and so we will end our journey, darnel and wheat, evil and virtue, greatness and meanness, our fate has graduation of course, I only name the limits.

    As a corollary, and not surprising at all, where there is less wealth, there is more altruism and human feelings.

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    1. Thanks Untony.
      Just for the exhilaration of reading and responding :). A strong theory Untony as our capacity to own grew so did our abuse of one another. It's got to the stage now where humans truly are in danger of beginning to view one another as commodities.

      On a subject of corollary, do you therefore think this financial disaster is a good thing as it would make us into better human beings?

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    2. You are one of the "lucky" persons to live in the so called first world, :) so you know we are using one another to scale up the pyramid.

      I lived it through HS, NYU, MIT, and during the years I was "running" the rat race as part of the establishment, and thought it was great, until I found out it was wrong and decided to got down the train and make a poorer but freer living!

      Then I started to travel and found, to my surprise, that if the rat race is alive everywhere, the places where it was less effective were those where there were no wealth, and everybody shared whatever could be found at hand.

      That is the corollary I mentioned. But on second thoughts, brought forth by you, I believe that in the sin is the punishment, so it is possible, just possible, that after the collapse, we develop into better beings. :)

      Thank you for giving fodder to thought! :)

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  5. A friend of mine once said something like, "You can measure a civilization's downfall by the divide between the rich and the poor." The Roman empire fell completely due to that divide. There are many people here in the US that think that break is coming soon, and are preparing for it. Its quite shocking how much thought people have put into that prep, but I watch the news, or just look at society at large, and I can't help but wonder how long until this all breaks....

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    1. I guess so many people are hoping that at any moment they will get that break. So many of the poorer people are doing the lottery on a weekly basis (spending much needed income) believing that they will one day hit the jackpot. When that day will be, I may never know. Also based on the measure of civilization as you stated, our societies ie: America and UK are becoming increasingly Uncivilized.
      Thanks Dan for your comment. 

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  6. The ultra-wealthy have seen their incomes absolutely explode over the past three decades, here in Canada and the USA. Meanwhile, the middle class has been steadily declining and the ranks of the poor have been swelling. But this is what always happens when an economy becomes highly centralized. Today, gigantic corporations and "too big to fail" banks totally dominate our economic system. The whole game is rigged. Our system is now designed to funnel wealth away from the bottom 90 percent of the population and into the pockets of the ultra-wealthy. When you allow a handful of giant entities to run everything, it is going to inevitably create a situation where there are a small number of very big winners and a massive amount of losers. In Canada/US today, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Yes, there will always be poor people. Yes, those that work really hard and produce something of great value for society should be greatly rewarded. The way that our system should work is that it should empower individuals and small businesses to come up with new ideas, start companies, create jobs and produce massive amounts of new wealth. But instead, the number of small businesses is rapidly declining. The giant banks and the giant corporations that run everything are constantly running around stomping all of the "little guys" out of existence. This has created an environment where the rich are constantly getting richer and the poor are constantly getting poorer.

    Take comfort in the fact that what you see and hear in London, is not uncommon for others. Unless something changes, the income inequality that we are seeing all over the world is just going to get worse and worse and worse. As the economy continues to decline, people will start to become even more desperate. In some cities, not just in London, we see rioting and chaos. Meanwhile, the gigantic corporations that dominate our economy will just keep getting even bigger and even more powerful. They will pay their executives even larger bonuses and they will ship our jobs out of the country at an even faster rate.

    UUUGH! Life's certainly not fair and I guess we should know that since there is no guarantee written on our birth certificates. I pray that conditions around you change for the better. I also hope that you find a little comfort in knowing that you are not the only one living amongst the chaos and confusion... disappointment and frustration.

    Very good entry!!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Daily Dose of Musings, need I say anymore here, as you have covered the points perfectly and I fully agree with them. 

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  7. Yeah, I see the same here in the United States. We have those who have and those who have not. The latter is a small percentage, about 1%, but they rule on all fronts. Moreover, there is no hope of stemming this tide because many of our political leaders in our two houses of Congress and in the White House belong to this upper class. They make the rules and almost always the laws they pass will favor their own. The poor, by contrast, have no representative to sit at the table on their behalf.

    I love our city's downtown area. Tourism is one of our city's major economies. Anytime through the day, you can see tourists visiting our beautiful parks, taking tours and cruises, eating at the fine restaurants, etc. But also we have the low income project housing, and those living in homeless shelters, and some who sleep in the same beautiful parks that wealthy tourists visit. I believe these two faces exists on most large cities in the United States.

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    1. Thanks for you comment Frank.
      It's a shame that it is usually those who have or who are privileged in life seem to rule in most areas. The decisions they make hardly ever really take the poor into consideration giving them an opportunity to have a decent life. The gap is widening all the time, and I do feel that there will be an uprising if it continues. The idea of democracy is to call leaders to the account of the whole population. Yet this doesn't seem to be working. The poorer the people seem to be the most politically uninformed and apathetic, yet they stand to gain and lose the most from the decisions leaders take.

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  8. It happens everywhere around the world. Here in the Philippines, we are a third world country for as long as I can remember and yet I think the rich people here are far more richer than the government. They can dine to the classiest and most expensive restaurants around the world and still complains while the rest of the poor population can only have rice for dinner and still satisfied with their lives. We may not like what is happening around us but this is reality.

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    1. Thanks Imee Tan. It's just funny (my way of speaking) how the rich complain regardless to how much they have, whilst the poor are content with their current life-style. That alone says a lot. There are some things that money cannot buy, and it usually are things that are not tangible like love etc...

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  9. Hello:
    I enjoyed the video, he describes the intensity of what is happening in London. I live in Victoria, BC Canada where there is a homeless population and poorer people. We don't seem to have it as bad as your city. There is a division, of course, but more people help each other. We are very much aware of what goes on and most people do lend a helping hand. I feel that each day, if I can connect with one new person and help this is a wonderful way to start change. I have many people in my life who feel this way. Of course, there are always going to be greedy people who don't care for others, but I'm going to focus on the people who are making a difference. It seems to me that you are creating awareness, so that a change can happen.
    Wonderful post!!! Thank you :)

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    1. Thanks for your comments Suzanne. It's always good to hear of a community of people who are willing to give a helping hand to others who need it. People often talk about it but don't really participate in it.

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  10. I live in the U.S. and for the first time in my 52 years, I see a nation divided. With the big presidential election only months away, the country seems to have lost all civility, completely divided over who would best run the states. The sagging economy has made people desperate and fearful, a lethal combination. No one feels safe or secure about anything anymore. And sadly, no one seems to have any answers this time. I am very concerned where 2013 will takes us...

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Menopausal mama, we are all concerned for our future at times, especially when it comes to elections and who will lead our country.

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  11. Hi Rum

    I live in the North of England, Yorkshire to be exact and even up here the divide between the rich and poor shocks me. There seems to be an opinion amongst the wealthy that the poor are poor because they are too lazy to work their way out of poverty and no one should judge the rich because they worked hard for the millions they have. There is a brilliant quote I saw on Facebook that said 'If wealth was the inevitable outcome of hard work, every women in Africa would be a millionaire' - fantastic quote that sums it up exactly. I don't think the situation is going to change very soon, the rich are far to reluctant to give up on their greed.

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  12. Thanks Jade and a good point. I have seen some people work extremely hard for years and are very careful with how they deal with their money but despite this they are still not able to get out of the poverty trap. So I do agree that hard work does not always result in wealth. I love the quote too.

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