The human tragedy in Haiti is unmeasurable and unbearable. In response many merchants around the grid have offered a discount on some item with some or all of the proceeds going to the relief effort.
I’m confident that every merchant and every participating consumer has the best intentions, still, I wonder if we aren’t just Bouguereau in Haiti.
Bill Bouguereau, 1825-1905, was a French academic painter. A very controversial painter. Not “controversial” because of the incendiary, scandalous, assumption-and-value-questioning nature of his work, as is so often true with those artsy types, but scandalous because of how polarizing his work is. Many people love his “beautiful” paintings. Many people hate the romantic fantasy of his work that so seems to sidestep the “inconvenient truth” of reality.
The painting above is Bouguereau’s 1865 work, The Indigent Family. Yes, this is homelessness in Bouguereauvision. Their clothes are clean, they are attractive, they face their uncertain lives with dignity.
What we the affluent can comfortably say about this painting is, “oh, well, if that’s homelessness, then it’s really not that bad, I don’t need to worry about it, I can just go on with my day.”
After September 11th Mr. Bush told the Americans that the way for them to fight back was to spend more money.
Can more consumption by the developed world really solve problems, be those problems wrought by the hand of god, or by the hands of the disenfranchised? Can we really shop our way to helping the disaster victims? Or are we just Bouguereau in Haiti?