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Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Have, And to Have Not...

Its a funny old world, isn't it? The circumstances that keep the human race united under the common ties of community - and yet poles apart in terms of commodity. 

A couple of weeks ago a sleak black Lamborghini pulled up along side me in town. This admittedly gorgeous piece of machinery is probably one of the most recognizable statements of privilege and wealth on four wheels that you're likely to come across in public. And although my salivary glands were about to go on overdrive, my thoughts suddenly switched to the absurdity of what was sitting there, growling quietly in front of my eyes.













We all know that the distribution of wealth is spread unevenly across the world - and never more so than here in South East Asia. Where else would you find such conflicting scenes of sprawling urban slums sitting shoulder to shoulder with mansions and manicured gardens? Millionaires and misery living side by side. I've lived in this part of the world for over fifteen years and I'm still not used to it.

Almost a year ago I was back in Sri Lanka, and although a beautiful country that I will always love, its still got enough economic and political obstacles to keep it from reaching its full potential. I recalled another unusual street scene from back then - a working elephant marching along a dusty back street, while close by a street child begged deliriously for food.
















What a contrast to the sleek machine purring at the traffic lights back here in Singapore... I quickly calculate that the small fortune paid for this car could easily: finance research on an endangered species, restore the livelihoods of entire communities destroyed by the tsunami, and even help fund any number of medical breakthroughs - the list goes on. Of course I'm talking humanitarianism here - a bit of an antique concept these days.
















As we evolve as a species, so our notorious Selfish Genes have become more dominant - it seems to be the way of things, across the board. Now don't get me wrong - this is not a jibe against the owner of said supercar (oh yes... you can almost see the sour grapes spilling from my mouth) - rather its what he stands for; a symbol of where most of the human race would like to be. Its all about possession and prestige - an almost instinctive need that plagues us. Although my aspirations don't include owning a million dollar sports car, I still want that new camera, that computer upgrade, and eventually a nice little farm in the country. There's always something we want, on any given day.

But if we could just manipulate that little piece of DNA - mutate it, make it more malleable - turn it into an altruistic gene with all traces of selfishness spliced out... yes that's all sci-fi - but what if? What if? 

What would it take for us to address the realities of poverty that plague our race even in this so-called enlightened age? What would it take for the millionaire to swap his Lamborghini for a more practical SUV and divert some of his fortune to aid the less fortunate? No, that's not going to happen is it? That's not the way we're built... 

So, in Singapore's thriving business district a stockbroker drives into the sunset on his wheels of fortune and a thousand miles away in a forgotten street corner, someone is trying to figure out how they're going to be able to make it through another day. And someone like me will vent their futile frustrations, knowing only too well that ultimately they have no solution for this contagious human condition.