Thursday, November 21, 2013

Diamonds and Art Are Forever, What About Health and Work?

Just reviewing the news in one single week this November, shows a picture of the world that says there is something wrong going on. Let's have a look at some of the "highlights":

The Wall Street Journal reported: "Pink Star' Diamond Fetches Record $83.2 Million"
"Sotheby's Geneva on Wednesday night sold a cotton-candy-hued diamond for a record $83.2 million. The sale smashed the previous world auction record for jewelry, which Sotheby's set in 2010 upon selling a $46.2 million, 24.78-carat pink diamond once owned by jeweler Harry Winston.........."

"World's largest orange diamond fetches record $35.5M" in The New York Daily News:
 " A spectacular and rare orange diamond, the largest known gem of its kind, was on Tuesday auctioned for a record $35.54 million in Geneva........"

The New York Times reported the following two articles:
"At $142.4 Million, Triptych Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at an Auction"
"It took seven superrich bidders to propel a 1969 Francis Bacon triptych to $142.4 million at Christie’s on Tuesday night, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. William Acquavella, the New York dealer, is thought to have bought the painting on behalf of an unidentified client, from one of Christie’s skyboxes overlooking the auction.......... "      

"Grisly Warhol Painting Fetches $104.5 M, Auction High for Artist"
"One of Andy Warhol’s more powerful and provocative images — a lifeless body amid the gruesome wreckage of a car crash — sold for $104.5 million at Sotheby’s contemporary art auction on Wednesday night, making it the highest price ever paid at auction for the Pop artist......."       

Then there was the story of Richard Pulga, one of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. "At a Philippine Hospital, Survivors Face Quiet Despair", The New York Times reported on November 13 from the Philippines:

"Richard Pulga, a 27-year-old farmer with thick black hair and a gentle manner, has been lying on a hard steel bed in a dark hallway of the main hospital here since Saturday with a shattered lower right leg, abdominal pain and his right eye filling with blood................... One of Mr. Pulga’s biggest worries is how to feed his family. The typhoon destroyed the vital rice crop, almost ready for harvest, on the meager two acres that he farms with his sisters and their families. The extended family is mostly women, and Mr. Pulga said that he needed to be healthy to do the heavy work of farming.       
“I don’t have any money, I’ve lost everything, even my house is gone,” he said. “That’s what is on my mind.” .......

A doctor briefly examined his wound and spoke to Mr. Pulga as the health workers bandaged his calf. The doctor left before he could be interviewed. Ms. Florendo, Richard Pulga's aunt, said that the doctor had told her that it would be very expensive to treat Mr. Pulga, and asked her if she would like to take him home. Ms. Florendo said that her relatives and neighbors had also been left destitute by the typhoon, so there was no one she could turn to for money for his treatment.."
On November 14, The New York Times reported in "Death After the Typhoon: ‘It Was Preventable'":
"Richard Pulga lay on a hard steel gurney for five days with only a saline drip after being seriously injured in the typhoon that devastated his country.  On Friday, Mr. Pulga, 27, died — essentially of a broken leg. Doctors said the father of two small children could have been saved. Instead, he became a victim of the incompetence and inaction that have plagued relief efforts here for the hundreds of thousands left injured, or homeless or hungry, and sometimes all three, since the typhoon hit. .......
His death is one of the clearest signs yet of the human toll taken by a slow and troubled relief effort since the typhoon swept ashore on Nov. 8. Like much-needed water and food, medicine — including antibiotics — was held up for days as rescue teams struggled to operate amid the chaos of a city with too few military or police officers to provide security and too little government control.................For Mr. Pulga’s family, the loss is catastrophic. A farmer, Mr. Pulga was one of the few men in his extended family able to earn money. In his final days, as he spoke with a reporter from The New York Times, it was that thought that consumed him..........At St. Paul’s Hospital, a security guard told Mr. Pulga’s wife that her husband’s body would have to be buried in a mass grave if she could not remove it. She had no vehicle to transport it and sobbed for more than an hour, refusing to make a decision. Dr. Bravo (one of the local doctors interviewed by The New York Times) went upstairs to the steel bed where Mr. Pulga’s body had been.  It was empty. No one seemed to know where the corpse or the bereaved had gone."
Also, in The New York Times an article about unemployment in Europe: "Young and Educated in Europe, but Desperate for Job": "Alba Méndez, a 24-year-old with a master’s degree in sociology, from Madrid, Spain,  sprang out of bed nervously one recent morning, carefully put on makeup and styled her hair. Her thin hands trembled as she clutched her résumé on her way out of the tiny room where a friend allows her to stay rent free.She had an interview that day for a job at a supermarket. It was nothing like the kind of professional career she thought she would have after finishing her education. But it was a rare flicker of opportunity after a series of temporary positions, applications that went nowhere and employers who increasingly demanded that young people work long, unpaid stretches just to be considered for something permanent.  “We’re in a situation that is beyond our control,” Ms. Méndez said. “But that doesn’t stop the feelings of guilt. On the bad days, it’s really hard to get out of bed. I ask myself, ‘What did I do wrong?' ” 
The question is being asked by millions of young Europeans. Five years after the economic crisis struck the Continent, youth unemployment has climbed to staggering levels in many countries: in September, 56 percent in Spain for those 24 and younger, 57 percent in Greece, 40 percent in Italy, 37 percent in Portugal and 28 percent in Ireland. For people 25 to 30, the rates are half to two-thirds as high and rising.Those are Great Depression-like rates of unemployment, and there is no sign that European economies, still barely emerging from recession, are about to generate the jobs necessary to bring those Europeans into the work force soon, perhaps in their lifetimes...........
Soon after her 23rd birthday four years ago, Melissa Abadía made a wrenching decision: She would leave her close-knit family in Spain, where the grinding fallout from the 2008 financial crisis had made securing a good job impossible, and move to the Netherlands, where employers were still hiring. “When I got on the plane, I was crying,” Ms. Abadía, a bright, ebullient woman, recalled. “But I had to decide: Should I fight for something back home that makes no sense, or get out of there and make a life for myself?” Despite five years of training in nursing in her hometown, Castellón de la Plana, in eastern Spain, she now works in a windowless stockroom in Amsterdam organizing purses, socks and other accessories at a clothing store..................       
Recently, I heard criticism that people like us are running away,” Ms. Abadía said. “We didn’t run away. We left because the economic situation and the politicians pushed us.” “If they don’t fix things, they are going to lose a couple generations of smart, young people,” Ms. Abadía added as her friends nodded in agreement. “And then what will happen to the country that’s left behind?”............
In Amsterdam, Ms. Abadía has been surviving her economic exile by telling herself to be strong.
She rolled up her sleeve and revealed a single word in blue cursive that she had tattooed on her forearm last year: “valiente,” the Spanish term for brave.  “I did this to remember that I must keep dancing until the end,” Ms. Abadía said. “I was forced to leave my country and everyone I love just so I can have a life. But I need to keep dancing and trying and getting stronger. If I do that, someday, I can conquer the world.”       
So, in one week we see totally diverging developments: record breaking purchases of modern art and diamonds by the wealthiest investors and collectors of the world, while young generations in Europe are struggling to earn a living, and victims of the Philippine typhoon die due to lack of medicine and money.  Quite a dim picture, as it seems there is more than enough money around to buy diamonds and art, but not enough to invest in jobs or disaster relief.
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu once said:

"So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.
Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency."

Our world is definitely not avoiding extremes, excesses and complacency. How long can this imbalance continue?

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