06 November 2011

Thoughts From A Bus Seat On Economic Inequality

In college, I took a class on Latin America.  Part of our assignment was to create political cartoons about aspects of Latin American history.  When we got to economic inequality in present-day Latin America, I drew a picture of a mansion with a courtyard.  Through the window of the mansion is a dining room with a man and a woman seated at either end of a long, bountiful table.  Outside, the courtyard is packed with people without food.  I meant it to be a sort of pie graph, demonstrating the relative amount of resources (shelter, space, food, etc.) controlled by those inside the mansion versus by those outside in the courtyard.

I had thoughts along similar lines as I looked out the bus window the other day.  I watch a lot of shiny new cars go by--cars with one person in them, with airbags, climate control systems, sound systems, lots of room for groceries.  And on the bus, people pack in side-by-side, holding grocery bags or children on their laps.  There is no safety system--no seatbelts, no child safety seats.  Sometimes people have to stand.  This disparity bothers me.  It seems to suggest that the life of a child in a safety seat in a new car is worth more than that of a child in a stroller or on a lap in the bus.  That's what I am thinking when I look out the bus window.  And I wonder if the child on the lap next to me is thinking that when she looks out the window too.

In my idea of home, money isn't very important.  But I do think the concept of "home" includes an expectation of safety.  I think people need to feel safe in order to feel at home in our communities and in our world.  Children especially should feel safe.


  1. I tend to feel sorry for the kids strapped into the shiny cars... so sheltered from the world around them. But if I have kids, I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing.

  2. You don't feel sorry for them for being physically safe and economically secure, though. It seems like that's exactly what children should be. If you're talking about some kind of metaphorical shelter, then I agree it might be possible to have too much, although giving children some shelter from the realities of grown-up life makes sense to me. It isn't their turn to carry the problems of the world yet. Otherwise it would seem like we create them to suffer.