In a September, 2013 article in The New Yorker, Josh Eells describes a night club scene in Las Vegas where some DJ's are paid more than $100,000 a night, the markup in liquor can be 1000 per cent, and one club brings in between several hundred thousand to a million dollars a night. Eells describes one customer buying a 30-liter bottle of champagne for $100,000.
He was talking about some serious self indulgence.
My first reaction was that the author must have had the facts wrong. But then I realized there are worlds I really know nothing about. Those would include the obscene excess of Las Vegas clubs and the equally obscene world of poverty, also out of my personal line of sight except for the truly destitute on the street. The Occupy movement got a conversation about economic disparity started, but for the most part, that conversation has become much quieter.
One problem is the obvious lack of charity in the Las Vegas greed and self indulgence, and another is a society that not only allows, but encourages that culture. The encouragement includes what I see as near-worship of sports figures and celebrities, and the belief that someone with a lot of money must have cleverness and a work ethic equal to their wealth. Those attitudes allow certain people to command disproportionate compensation, sometimes for little more than existing.
The culture of selfishness isn’t limited to those with a hundred grand to spend on champagne. I have a few Facebook "Friends" who espouse the conservative party line at every possible opportunity. As much as I think it's important to pay attention to the hearts and minds of those we disagree with, I'm often tempted to turn off their feeds. This seems a shame partly because I suspect that like anyone else, they're broadcasting 99 per cent to people who already agree with them. What I find so disturbing in their statements isn't any particular issue they bring up -- and occasionally they'll make a good point. The disturbing part is the emotional tone common to all their posts, which strikes me as fear followed quickly by selfishness.
The basic idea seems to be that there are 1000 people standing around a table with enough food for maybe 700, and you're a fool if you don't elbow your way forward, don't refuse to share your food, and don't keep weapons at the ready because someone will surely try to take your share. No thought to dividing the food equally, finding how to grow more of it, or figure out if it might actually be enough for everyone. No, the only way to handle limited resources of any kind is a Darwinian contest, except enough is never enough, and no can ever be assured of having enough. The theme of Las Vegas, with its clubs of excess and its gambling, seems to be just that -- never having enough. If one never has enough, security and charity are going to be scarce indeed.