Another wealth-divide rant in the middle of Covid-19
Jennifer Aniston did the sweetest thing the other day.
She sent a shout-out through a home-made video to the medical folks on the front-line of the Covid-19 war in the US from her 20 million dollar home.
No, that was not the headline of the story. I know about the house because a couple of weeks earlier, a link in an article I was reading popped up and gave me the option of a tour of her new abode. I clicked on it with some level of excitement, feeling very happy for Jenny.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks and I feel very different about it all.
Am I about to have a dig at Jen’s USD20 million home? Yes, I totally am.
Before I carry on, I have to insist on making one thing very clear. I love Jennifer Aniston. The mere mention of her name makes me smile. I think it was the third episode of Friends I watched when I realised with some trepidation that I was more of a Monica. So what? I could still be a Rachel one fine day when I cared enough about my hair and all the rest of it. Rachel was who I wanted to be when I grew up and moved to New York City. Didn’t we all?
The wealth of the rich and famous is not something that I am unfamiliar with. For someone who loves movies I have kept myself in-the-know to some extent on what goes in Hollywood. Articles about movies always comes with interesting figures on what it cost to produce them, how much the actors were paid and how much it grossed at the Box Office. Fascinating stuff and a lot of money.
Somehow though, this sweet and thoughtful gesture by Aniston last week, bothered me tremendously. When was it OK for a profession to pay over USD10 million for a three month shoot, enables someone to afford a house worth USD20 million and for a profession that saves lives to not even make USD1 million over an entire career. When and how did we allow this discrepancy to happen? How come no one at any point stood up to say that this was all wrong? Maybe someone did. Maybe they just weren’t loud enough.
I understand the economics of this. I understand the economics of marketing. Hollywood has sold us Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt and they have done an exceptional job at that. The business of film-making and entertainment in general is certainly lucrative. They have created some sort of craving and an escape which we (the rest of the world) simply cannot do without and the cash in-flow is impossible to describe. The entertainment industry ultimately creates dreams, and how could you possibly attach a value to that? The problem is that this dream blinds us to the heroes who walk among us every day. I don’t know of any child who has a poster of nurses or teachers on their wall. That’s nobody’s dream.
I do feel terrible that Aniston seems to be the target of my post. As the title of this blog post indicates, this not about her. She is a hard worker with an incredible talent in impersonating a fictional character in front of a camera, which ultimately brings great joy to millions of people. My mother was a hard worker too with an exceptional talent of getting a needle into the veins of a dehydrated patient when one or two of her co-workers simply couldn’t do it. In my adult life I have lost count of people who have spoken of her to me with great admiration and gratitude for comfort she brought to them when they were sick or when their loved ones were sick. Yes, my mother was a nurse, a damn great one at that. She built a small house on land she had inherited and the most expensive jewelry she ever owned was a pair of SR3000 gold earrings. To this day, she believes she had and has enough. And she is of course right about that. I am not trying to say that nurses and teachers should be remunerated so that they can live in million dollar houses, but surely we can do better so that they don’t need sign boards and protest marches to demand better salaries.
I’m probably sounding like a socialist now. Thankfully for me, I don’t care too much for labels.
A completely different world has been created for an elite few, almost adjacent it seems to the majority of the world’s inhabitants. Real estate, automobiles, jet planes, jewelry, offshore accounts and whatever else makes the package more desirable. It’s all been fine, well, for the most part, until now. I am pretty sure if anyone coughs three times within an hour in April 2020, the person they would most love to meet if they could meet absolutely anyone in this world, living or dead, would be a doctor or a nurse who knows what s/he is doing. Isn’t that funny? And yet, it is not the first time the world has known such harsh uncertain times. So what exactly did we learn from previous wars and economic depressions? Not much, it would seem, aside from increased greed.
This is not my first anguish expressed in a post at the wealth divide in the world. I do wonder whether I am a hypocrite when I write such things since, while I am far from being rich, I am financially far better off than a lot of people. I would very much like to think that if I ever had great wealth in my hands I would build homes, libraries and soccer fields so that people could have better prospects in their lives and happier ones at that. I have a ten year old who dreams of being a football star. Some years back when he was asked what would he do with all the money he started listing things he would buy. If you ask now, his would tell you he would help people – and yes, that would be his mama talking.
I am certainly not qualified to speak of great wealth or its pursuit. I do not have it nor do I wish for it. Like my mother, I am content with enough. However, when I think back to a short while ago when nurses in Seychelles had to march to get a better pay package I feel such great shame. I can only hope it never has to happen again.
And as for Aniston, while I would not be surprised if she does incredible charity work and makes donations, I hope one day soon, when Hollywood is done with the fight for equal pay for female actresses, she can also join the fight in better pay for the rest of the world.