Thursday, November 29, 2012
If I Had Won the Powerball Jackpot
I write this as thousands of Americans have bought their Lotto ticket and await the winning numbers. One would have to be living under a rock not to hear all the hoopla and be tempted to go out and buy just one. However, like every one of them, I've entertained those fantasies of what I'd do with an over half a billion dollar jackpot. I did not yield to temptation and buy a Lotto ticket. However, in spite of those who would claim I'd do otherwise, should I stumble into such obscene wealth, here's what I'd do. Here's my fantasy:
First, quite naturally, I'd think about myself. I'd acquire a little more living space; only a few hundred more square feet to relieve those cramped conditions in which I live now. Believe it or not, I don't desire to buy a fleet of Rolls Royces, or even one sleek Porsche. Those who know me, know I'm a firm believer in public transportation. Even though I have an old car thanks to the good graces of a good friend, I consider that car as a back-up to our pathetic local public transportation system. Instead, I'd use the extra cash for taxi fare to supplement the gaps in our current woefully inadequate public transit. And of course, I would be able to go out and enjoy some quality time with my few closest friends.
Cutting to the chase, here's how I'd use the remainder: First, I'd build a recording studio, and a radio and television complex to make possible public access for all the talented musicians and media artists in our community. I'd set up a marketing mechanism so that these musicians could get paid for their work, and to disseminate their product, through the sale of recordings. I'd create more permanent spaces for local public visual artists, past and present, and subsidize the creative processes for those still working. I'd establish a local press to publish the entire local canon of past literary work by Delaware authors and poets, establish bookstores for their sale, and donate important past literary works to local schools and libraries. This same press would publish and pay current worthy literary artists as well. I'd help to establish and support local theaters that stage live performances, as well as to establish theaters for the screening of serious cinema, especially films in the interests of those minorities who've become the majority in Wilmington. I'd begin to preserve historic sites in Wilmington, and, for example, finish the work to restore the Sugar Bowl.
The important thing here is that doing all these things, through the graces of good fortune, would provide more wealth, first through the work necessary to get these kinds of projects off the ground, and later in the need to maintain them, and finally creating an enriched environment that could attract the need to bring necessary manufactures to the area, from bakeries to breweries, from a new and efficient public transportation system to repairing a crumbling urban infrastructure.
However, our local community would not need me winning millions of dollars to realize all these projects, to make this fantasy come true. This kind of money is already out there. It's there in the collective "old money" bank accounts of our local duPont clan, in the annual bonuses of those corporate and bank executives who live here, tucked away in those portfolios, and Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts of the Centreville jet set. The kind of money I'd never win, the half billion dollars I claim could miraculously transform our cultural environment, would never be missed by those in the local wealthy class who have it. With the click of fewer mouses than one realizes, that kind of money could make it all happen.
It won't happen, however, because an enriched cultural environment is not in the interest of the wealthy class. While they may throw chump change and tax write-off dollars to this or that cultural organization, they only do it to control the local cultural environment instead of liberating it. It is not in the interest of the local wealthy class to better engender an enriched cultural environment because it would serve to raise the social value of all those who live here, to allow people to feel as though they play a more valuable part in our community. If such were the case, they might have to pay more people a better wage and a larger salary, and that would not be good for profits. The value of greater social and cultural wealth challenges the cause of mere capital accumulation for a few. An enriched cultural environment creates greater value for larger numbers of people than those relative few who strive for mere greater capital accumulation, while shielding themselves by using chump change and tax write-off dollars in the cause of promoting cultural mediocrity. I know this from experience. I know there are some immensely talented and gifted artists of all kinds living among us who are struggling in poverty, with low paying jobs that serve to devalue their spirits, wear down their bodies, and blunts their desire to express themselves. I also know there are many more who live in or near poverty who are capable of appreciating, understanding and are open to being enriched by all those local gifted and talented artists. The truths embodied in our cultural potential could be the truths that set us all free, but the purse strings controlled by the wealthy are the chains that make us think that the only thing for which we can strive is mediocrity because the exceptional is out of the question.
With the money I could have used to buy a Lotto ticket, I bought a cup of soup instead.