February 04, 2010

The American Question

If I saw Bill Gates on the bus, I would ask him where he's been--if he ever thought, years ago, how rich he would be if he invested in Microsoft after quitting college. For sixteen years he has been America's richest man, and, consequently, the Gates family is America's wealthiest family. The man after him, Warren Buffet, is the science geek turned billionaire noted for saying "be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." The man after him, Lawrence Ellison, dropped out of college and is currently the founder of Oracle, the database giant. Then, the woman after him is shining Christy Walton, along with the Walton family, making billions off of the millions of poor Walmart shoppers and sucking the life out of small businesses.

All four of these people are self-made billionaires, taking opportunity and soaring to new heights. Three of the four are noted for charity contributions in Forbes magazine of the top wealthy individuals.

And yet, "a shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world" (The Observer, "37 million poor hidden in the land of the plenty," by Paul Harris).


Despite government efforts--or perhaps because of the lack--charities, and the possibility of becoming "self-made," America has the widest gap between rich and poor when compared to all of the developed nations like Britain, New Zealand, the European Union, and Canada (yes, Canada, can't make fun of them anymore, can we?).

I am a product of a middle-class family, and against my better nature I have taken pride in that. My family, in my own lifetime, has swerved down and then back up, going below the poverty line when I was eight and then, mainly due to my mother's resourcefulness, clawed its way back up by the time I was in high school. Right now, because I am in college, I do not have any individual assets besides a $10,000/year income, junk car, and college education. However, I consider myself still middle-class. I pay rent, go to school and pay for it, and live a relatively independent life (my mom does help with car insurance from time to time, I admit). On top of that the cost of education has stacked itself past the $30,000 mark, and I am worried about paying it back in thirty years (by the time I graduate I will have accrued around $40,000--divide that by 36 months equals $1111/month... I will be graduating with a B.A. in English).

The destruction of the middle class affects people like me, my friends, their parents, and relatives. My aunt lost her house in California because of the mortgage crash, and, ironically, my grandmother, who is the boss of a small mortgage firm, took another cruise last Christmas. It seems to me that those within the middle class are grabbing at the nearest bar and heaving themselves up into the rich, or being squashed into the multitude of the poor, and college students like me are playing Guitar Hero downstairs in their run-down living room with beer bottles strewn everywhere.

The American question becomes:
Do we care enough to change it?

The middle-class and poor person gets assaulted with advertisements of quick money now, hooked into high-interest loans with a promise of great returns in profit, they look up but never ahead, and end up tripping on the poverty line. Meanwhile, shrewd, often greedy, business people grab at the bar and pull. They donate to charity so the lower class will not rebel, but charities are some of the most consistent and profitable businesses in the world. Think about it, they get money in donations, and in turn help people enough to make progress while paying people at the same time. William Blake, a famous British Romantic poet, said that the time when human charity becomes capitalized is the beginning of the end.

How far does charity stretch if it cannot prevent the dissolution of the middle class or the growing economic crisis? If the systems in place in the past--charity as well as government--have had any real effect, the logical conclusion would be that today should be a brighter future, right?

I digress and say that not all charity is bad, the Haiti community and Hurricane Katrine relief would back me up on this. However, as a whole it does not benefit the "trailer trash" children running around naked and barefooted. Or the homeless guy who rode on the bus with me to Walmart one year ago, wearing duck-tapped shoes and praising Obama's election. It does not help the millions of college graduates find jobs, or a man working at Kalahari Resort in Ohio move out of his parents house and become a geologist like he wanted to. Or help a writer change the world.

In reality, this blog is unread and virtually faceless in the multitude to online blogs by emo-stricken teenagers, entrepreneurial business people jumping on the Internet bandwagon. In reality, the Cedar Point workers in Ohio, who are usually people who can't get jobs up in Michigan, are ignored. In reality, millions of children below age 18 are given half-hashed education, the students often complaining about peer-pressure, boring classes, and educational repression of individual thought.

In reality, when I entered high school, it was the beginning of the greatest and worst parts of my life. I became aware of how much I could learn, but the reverse was the knowledge I could not know everything no matter how hard I tried. I could learn 'til I die, then where would that leave me? Probably rotting in a grave, if I or my family could afford it. I realized how teachers did not care sometimes, or the worse and often more prevalent disease--students did not care anymore.

Education leads to jobs, leads to economy, leads to national success and values. Whether from families or schools, there is nothing more important than the education of children. Morals, math, English, science, healthy social interaction, and living healthy and logically is very important, and the lack of education in each field has led to the problems of the government. And everyone tends to ignore it and push it aside (along with lowering the pay for teachers and professors).

Children are not being taught proper morals or healthy social interaction. Many complain about how boring school is, or, perhaps simultaneously, how easy the classes are. Now, personally, I am not a fan of long homework assignments based purely on the observation that most long homework assignments teaches me something that I could have learned in an individual hour project, the length of the longer mainly from the effort it takes to cite al the "proper" sources.

It does not take a genius to figure out the discrepancies of the educational system and the corresponding behavior of the economic and political nation. People do not care anymore. Not about education, not about politics, not about saving money. I correct myself--children care about playing rather than doing homework, teenagers care about personal relationships rather than personal responsibility, young adults care about alcohol, cigarettes, and video games rather than using their knowledge to improve the world, and adults just want to shake their heads and go with the flow, because many of them are working their asses off without time to think about changing anything.

The only people who have time, and are knowledgeable enough to contribute change, are young adults, usually college students, and rich aristocrats. It has been so since the boom of the industrial era, where the farmers had to migrate to urban areas and fuel the economy, it will be so until the working poor and middle-class are finally given a break. When that will be, no one knows. To make it happen there certainly has to be change.

So, now the American question becomes:
Do you care enough to change it?

May God give me the tools to enact Thy will in this life, for there is no other I can see or change.


  1. You said it all, Kimani.

    Can I repost this on Facebook?

  2. I will need to revise it a little for spelling and organization, but I wouldn't mind if you posted it. ^_^ I didn't know you read my blog!