In the days that followed, I found myself thinking often of the common man on the street and the gap between us. I imagined people – the elevator boy, the waiter in a restaurant, the pizza delivery guy – looking at me, sizing up my net value, and comparing it to their own. On streets I often hid my camera. I sensed a strange notion of guilt, for things I possessed and they did not. I found this condition disturbing, and I wondered how others like me coped. I spoke with some friends.
“We know inequality as an abstraction, and we think we understand it. But putting a number to it, not statistically but in the context of an everyday situation, is something else.”
I was with an ex-colleague who now divided his time between the corporate and social sector.
I continued: “This is what happened when I gave that figure to the barber – I put down a number that made the gap between us explicit. Before this incident I ignored these people, now I think of them everyday.”
“I see what you mean,” he said.
“You live here – how do you cope with this on a daily basis?”
“I deal with it by contributing to social causes. And I tell myself that to do this, I need to keep a certain level of prosperity – good clothes, a car, an apartment, and so on. I need to keep myself satisfied, so that I can have an impact on others.”
I live in an Appalachian hollow in the Juniata watershed of central Pennsylvania, and spend a great deal of time walking in the woods. Here’s a bio. All of my writing here is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For attribution in printed material, my name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact me for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).