This is what the “growing gap” looks like

Posted on August 6, 2011

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Isn’t it interesting when two worlds collide?

Well, that has happened in the Gaza Strip. The Arcmed Al-Mashtal Hotel, a 5-star resort, has opened up in the midst of violence and poverty.

“The Gaza Strip’s first five-star hotel gleams with marble floors, five luxury restaurants and a breezy cafe overlooking the territory’s white sandy beaches and sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea”

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But as they say, it’s all about location. And apparently one that includes constant fighting isn’t exactly appealing, because the majority of the rooms at the Arcmed Al-Mashtal are empty. Earlier in the month, there were only 10 guests in the entire 220-room hotel. There was, however, someone staying in the royal suite, which costs $880 a night.

Such wealth amid poverty and violence must be such a strange sight.

I’ve actually witnessed it, though, now that I think about it. Last summer I went to Hawaii for vacation. We stayed on the island of Kauai. It’s a small island – no highways, and the entire center of the island is mountainous, so the only roads are along the perimeter. To drive from the south to the north would probably be about a 2 hour drive.

Most Hawaiians living on that island are dirt poor. Passing by neighborhoods toward the northern part of the island was like taking a time machine back to the 1960’s. All old-fashioned cars and houses; very little was up-to-date. Many houses would be better described as shacks. However, if you drove down to the southern part of the island, the houses changed. They would be better described as mansions. As I said, driving from the bottom to the top of the island doesn’t take long, so the proximity between the mega-rich and extremely poor is small (you need only drive perhaps 45 minutes). Of course, the proximity between rich and poor shrinks around the various resorts – vacationers in their convertibles shared the same road as the natives in their nearly broken down cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hear a lot about how the gap between rich and poor is growing. It’s getting worse in the United States, and in some countries it is beyond imaginable. But it’s difficult to conceptualize until you see both ends of the spectrum in the same area. It isn’t until an hour long joy ride features both shacks and mansions, or until a luxury resort is built in an area torn apart by violence that we  really understand what that gap in wealth is like. Then it’s no longer words in some scholarly article – it’s real.

 

 

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Posted in: Politics