Last summer the Seattle Theater Group treated its season ticket holders to a champagne lunch aboard a Holland America cruise ship.
The closest we’d come to a cruise was a day trip from Helsinki to Talin. Thom dusted off his sports jacket…
…and we went to lunch with our friend Monica.
…there was unabashed glitz and glamor.
…they turned us loose.
We acquainted ourselves with the pool.
And the dance floor.
…and colors were striking.
It was ‘The Titanic…
…meets Blade Runner.’
A place out of time. A floating island. Everyone the star of his or her own movie.
Across the harbor it was business as usual.
Gritty stories were played out in choppy waters, a world apart from our pampered microcosm.
As we left the parking lot, we drove through a sobering intersection of poverty and privilege.
Having just left a luxurious cruise boat, I thought of the Titanic. Many historians believe steerage passengers were treated with indifference at best, and that racism and classism was a factor in the dismal survival rates of the poor. Only 25% of the Third Class passengers survived, while 62% of the First Class passengers did.
One would hope for improvement in the last hundred years, and things did get better–for awhile.
From the 1950s through the 70s, middle class prosperity grew: more people could afford higher education, resulting in better jobs and owning homes. Then Ronald Reagan introduced Trickle Down Economics, claiming that by making the rich richer prosperity would trickle down to the poor, but that just kicked economic inequality into hyperdrive. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich also made the rich richer, while depriving the nation of income that would prevent the lower and middle classes from slipping further behind.
From 1979-2007, income of the top 1 percent grew by 275%, while the bottom 80 percent averaged 29%. From 2009-2012, the top one percent raked in 95% of all income growth in the nation.
Economist Paul Krugman says soaring profits of the one percent are achieved by squeezing those below: cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions. Elite priorities exert a wildly disproportionate effect on policy, such as slashing social programs for the needy while lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy.
But there is hope.
In yesterday’s election, Seattle voted to shut big money out of politics, after having already led the nation in a vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
I AM SO PROUD OF SEATTLE!
When Abraham Lincoln said America’s representative democracy was of the people, by the people, and for the people, I’m sure he did NOT mean corporations.
We are all in the same boat. I’m thinking it’s time to bust out the life preservers, and this time, let’s make sure there is one for everyone.
All images and words ©2015 Naomi Baltuck
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Well said! Canadians hope to move forward now with different leadership and gender parity in our Cabinet ! Some smart ,younger women and men now in our government!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. This is just the beginning, but it is heartening. People everywhere have to stand up and stand together to make changes that are desperately needed. Best of luck in Canada!
Brilliantly told and illustrated. I’m so disenchanted with capitalism, even though they set a magical-looking stage. Less competition, less greed, more sharing, more caring. It’s time for a new story to play out!
Thank you for the visit, and for bringing your thoughts into this conversation.
I understand how capitalism could work, as it offers an incentive for hard work and innovation, but without a sense of social responsibility to the system that has helped them to succeed, it is doomed to become an oligarchy.
The government should be working for all of its people, not selling itself to those who can afford to contribute the most to elected officials campaigns in exchange for payback favors. I’m looking for a new story here too, and one with more courage and more caring is what it will take.
Always love how you bring it all together, Naomi. I think poverty & homelessness is the biggest tragedy of our nation. We should be ashamed these conditions exist.
Thank you, Lisa. It is shameful–simply repugnant–that in such a wealthy “enlightened” country we have so many people living in poverty. There is no reason and NO EXCUSE. We are swiftly en route to becoming an oligarchy, and once that happens it might be too late to take our country back. I think more rests on the coming presidential election than most people realize.
I am hopeful. Our new government here in Canada haw promised to increase taxes for the top 1%. I believe they will actually do it too. About time!
I hope so. We have companies that are making billions in profits and not paying a penny in taxes. GE, for instance. All our taxes are regressive, with those earning less paying a much larger proportion of their income, and wealthy people and corporations using loopholes, offshore tax havens, and just getting undeserved tax breaks. They can afford to buy off congressmen and hire lobbyists and lawyers to keep things working in their favor, slashing social programs to pay for tax breaks for the rich. We are a wealthy country living off the backs of the poor.
My husband and I are financially secure, but my mother was widowed with seven children and we couldn’t have made it without social security. We need to keep that in place for future generations, and I don’t mind paying taxes to have it be so, because it’s the right thing to do.
Thanks so much for the visit,and for joining the conversation, Alison. I really hope that Canada follows through on its promise.
I think Justin Trudeau will be very good for Canada. The previous government under Stephen Harper for 10 years was all about helping the wealthy become wealthier and supporting big corporations. So many social programs were cut, but I think Trudeau will restore them bit by bit. I hope so.
We need the same here, Alison. I hope for your country’s sake and ours that Canada will set a good example for us!
Great powerful post, Naomi. There’s talk here of raising the GST to 15% as a way of raising revenue! rather than face the unfair tacks system. Crazy consumerism. M
I have been thinking about you! Thanks for reading and joining in, and for your kind words. The GST would be a regressive tax, in that it would add ten percent to goods and services. People with a lower in come spend a much larger percentage of their income on goods and services, while the wealthy spend a much lesser percentage of their greater income and invest or save more of theirs. An income tax would be the fairest way to tax people, but a GST would be preferable if it’s the only way to fund necessary social programs. We don’t have an income tax in Washington State, and we really ought to, but people balk when it comes to that. All of our taxes are regressive ones that are hardest on the lower and middle classes. I will write and catch you up on all the storyteller news tonight.
I love the way your mind works, Naomi. Thank you for the great pics (the floating hair and ‘the art’ were particularly fetching), and as always your thoughfulness. The cardboard signs stopped me. best to you, Mary
Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts. Seeing the cardboard memorial stopped me too, and seeing it just outside the gates of this place was such a stark contrast.
Best to you too,
The last change we got hasn’t helped, I hope we get it right this time.
Hi Patti, I hope so too! Thanks so much for checking in.
The rich get richer . . . I don’t know the answer to our country’s problems, the world’s problems. I only know that we cannot go on this way and at some point honor has to come back into the picture. Doing what is right for the country – all of it, not just those with fat pockets – needs to happen. I hate that when I look at or listen to our congress I see none of that.
Some progress has been made in the last seven years, against unbelievable obstructionism. I believe that we are dangerously close to becoming an oligarchy, and that kind of government cares nothing about honor or doing the right thing. So much depends upon how the election goes.
I wish I could say I have confidence that the election will change things.
I know what you mean. I was shocked at the rudeness and disrespect congress showed the president, the unrelenting obstructionism, not even putting up a pretense of wanting to get anything done except to derail the healthcare program that Obama miraculously pushed through. I hope there will be a backlash in the polls because of it, and we will have a president who gets things done with the help of a congress that is willing to work to make it happen. Fingers crossed! It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. I am a little hopeful.
I agree with you completely. I was taught that whether or not you like or agree with a person, you treat them with the respect every human deserves and the respect their position deserves. Respect and responsibility seem to be disappearing.
I read yesterday that they want to raise a statue to Dick Cheney! He was the most crass and mean-spirited politician, who used the ‘F’ word to a congressman who disagreed with him, in front of reporters. He had the sense of honor or decorum of a back alley thug.
Who is the “they”? We need to get them committed! Cheney and Rumsfield, masters of deceit, champion power-mongers.
I’m sure “they” is a Republican congress. It is sickening to me to spend tax dollars to memorialize those criminals.
Show me a truly honorable candidate and I will vote for her/him. I want to go back to voting “for” not “against”.
It is telling to me that even the Republicans can’t seem to dig up any dirt on Bernie Sanders. I love what he stands for, and it seems that what you see is what you get.
I’m leaning that direction.
I went to my first political rally last August (unless you count a protest in Olympia against excessive testing in schools). I wasn’t sure that Bernie Sanders could get elected, even though I loved what he stood for. 10,000 people turned out to hear Bernie Sanders speak. Young and old, gay and straight, people of every color, and all of them so hopeful, all wanting desperately to move this country forward, instead of back to the middle ages where women had no voice and where only the rich had power or a voice. I heard that 32,000 people showed up to a recent rally in Boston–and it was hardly given any coverage in the press. I believe there is a grassroots network out there that could get him elected.
I hope so, but then the question remains: will Congress work like a team?
It depends on a lot of factors. I am hoping that people will be sick enough of the vitriol and incompetence to vote a better congress into office. They can’t do any worse than they have done in the last seven years, and Obama still managed to make some progress.
Sad that the progress he’s made has either been poorly publicized or maligned. I’m working on regaining my optimism.
Yes, me too, Carol. There is reason to hope!
Well said Naomi, we can’t lose faith or we are lost. Meanwhile those cruise ship images are stunning if you are into a bit of escapism.
Thanks for the boost. I completely lost faith during the dark days of moral and financial bankruptcy under Bush. When Obama was elected I felt glimmers of hope, in spite of his having to deal with the most backward ignorant obstructionist congress in my recollection. It is remarkable what he has managed to do in the face of such opposition. Sometimes a bit of escapism is called for!
Very powerful post, Naomi. A sobering reminder that, since at least the 1980’s, we’ve been seeing the steady erosion of “We’re all in this together” into “Every man for himself.”
The widening income gap escalates itself, unfortunately. And whether they intend to or not, politicians sowing fear also make economic disparity worse. Because the more afraid people are for their own welfare, the more protective they become of what they do have, & the less likely they are to act for the welfare of others.So the effect snowballs.
And corporations push it even further – more and more, they increase profits by abdicating moral responsibility for what they produce. Now it’s on consumers (not customers, apparently!) to look out for themselves. “Buyer beware” is yet another version of “every man for himself.”
I’m full of aphorisms today, LOL! But it’s heartening to remember that there’s still a lot of kind and decent people who are not afraid to speak up for the community good. Thank you for sharing your stories and your insights, and your wonderfully poetic eye 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing some astute observations and kind words, and some very appropriate aphorisms!
We must never lose heart!
I hope you’re well!
I think the remarkable thing about Bernie Sanders is how he has galvanized a mostly uninvolved and distrustful youth. I’m feeling hopeful.
Me too, Judith!
I’d feel so uncomfortable surrounded by all that glitz, glitter, and wealth — apart from the horror of having to finding something smarter than my jeans to where there! You’ve portrayed the contrast between the two worlds so well. I think if you were measure the humanity and acts of kindness on a daily basis in the two places, that you would find more in the latter despite the general harshness of it. In the UK there’s a widening gap between the rich and the poor, with many families living below the poverty line and depending upon food banks, while the other Banks (with a capital B) plus the politicians show no sign of tightening their belts — hence the protest vote recently for Jeremy Corbin as the new Labour Party leader. He needs to rethink his defence policies, but he’s being a thorn in the side of our present Government re pointing out various abuses of human rights, as well as poverty resulting from overdone austerity measures. …There’s me discussing politics in Blogland, which is a rare thing for me. See what your excellent post triggered, Naomi.
PS typos alert … 1) near the end of the first sentence. I mean “wear” there, not “where”. 2) second sentence … if you were “to” measure …
Sometimes it is difficult to remain silent when you see such disparity. Instead of bringing back a fair tax scale, they want to give more tax cuts to the rich and make up for it by slashing social programs for the poor need. It is alarming how much political power we have surrendered to big business and the wealthy here in the US, to the point where we are practically an Oligarchy. I didn’t know it was happening in Britain as well.
It looks like Canada might have turned the corner to a more enlightened state–I hope so!
Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah. I hope you are well.
Three million of the poorest families in the UK are about to end up with £1,000 less a year due to the Chancellor’s tax credit cuts — this, after Members of Parliament have given themselves a pay rise because, apparently, “they work so hard”. £1,000 may not sound like a lot of money to them, but it certainly is to those on or below minimum wages and with families to feed and clothe. Such measures will provoke even more anti-austerity protests than there are already.
Let’s hope, Naomi, that our two countries will turn the corner like Canada has.
And thank you — yes, I’m well and getting very excited about my novel’s forthcoming publication
It is beyond comprehension that they could chop away on the income of the poor while giving themselves raises. But I remember a few years back our congress did exactly the same thing. Shameful!
I’m looking forward to reading your novel!
Well said, Naomi! Happy to live in the more progressive part of the country with you. It makes a huge difference.
On another note, the Titanic scarred me for life. I’ve never been on a cruise and I can’t bring myself to do it!
I LOVE the Pacific Northwest for so many reasons, not the least one being its progressive politics. I was TERRIFIED as a kid from watching “A Night to Remember,” my generation’s depiction of The Titanic Disaster. It took a long time before I was willing to watch the latest big screen version, and that terrified me too.
I’ve not yet been on a cruise (this event was just free lunch and a look around) partly because I’ve heard that all the cruise lines are guilty of dumping HUGE amounts of garbage in the ocean, partly cause I don’t want to be in an environment where time is measured from one extravagant meal to the next, and also because I’d rather spend time on the ground exploring a different culture out in the real world than on a boat that epitomizes generic luxury.
I talked to my sister, who has crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary twice, and she says that a cruise is the only way many elders are able to travel–some even opt for it as a sort of traveling retirement home, because it is cheaper than most retirement homes. I looked at some cruise lines online and can see how it would be much easier for some people to travel under the protective auspices of a cruise company, doing guided trips at each new port. The trips also seem relatively affordable, if you take the cost of housing, meals, and transportation from destination to destination into account. So I understand why people do it. Maybe when I’m older, if that’s the only way I can make travel happen, I would resort to it, but not until then.
Thanks for the visit, Britt! It’s always good to hear from you.
I’m going to try to stay out of politics on my blog. That said, Thank You, SEATTLE!
Dear Cybele, I hear you loud and clear! Thanks for stopping by and making me smile.
Great job, Seattle! I hope this is a sign of more to come! I’ve never understood the logic of Reagan’s or Bush’s tactics, but there are shameful decisions made by the “other side” too. That’s politics for you.
Ah…but add them up and compare them side by side. You will have to invest time and attention but you’ll see the trends and realize one side is more about punishing the poor and rewarding the 1 percent.
This was an interesting post, thanks for sharing.
you walked us from luxury to poverty in one post. Always thought provoking Naomi!
Didn’t quite expect the twist at the end Naomi! 🙂 Good for Seattle! The world desperately needs more progressive politics.
Thanks for stopping by, Madhu. As you can see, I am WAY behind in my blogging. It’s always good to hear from you. Best wishes, Naomi
Leave it to you to put a curveball in there! I was amused at Titanic meets Blade Runner, right before you socked it to us. Nicely done!
Hi Laurel, thanks so much for the kind words, and for stopping by to visit. I hope your holidays were good! Best wishes for the New Year!
Same to you, Naomi! The holidays were awesome, and it’s also nice to be in the rhythm of a brand new year. I hope it’s super fun and productive for you and your amazing blog. XO Laurel
Thank you, dear Laurel!
I love those glass flowers. Great galley!
Thanks for the visit, and taking the time to comment.
Reblogged this on Writing Between the Lines.
Brava, speaking out for equalizing the sharing of productivity. We have much work to do to restore and reclaim our principles. I haven’t been able to shop at certain stores since reading NICKEL AND DIMED.
I did enjoy our storytelling cruises, using the onboard time for workshops and exploring on shore to add to the stories. I also noticed a difference in how crew members were treated on some lines, so if I were to make regular trips, I’d make that a big factor in my decision. I also appreciated the serious attending to my pesky allergies.