I've been at a developer conference in Las Vegas for the past few days. The contrasts have been striking, absolutely over the top bling and glitz and 'forced scale'. The hotels are huge, the distances between the hotel where we are staying and the hotel where our conference is being held is over a km as the wolf runs. To get there we need to go through a casino, part of Arthur's castle, part of New York, two more casino's and past a very large pool area to the conference center - and these hotels are directly across the street from each other.
While we are moving between those venus we frequently pass beggars and hawkers on the street. The beggars are most commonly white, the hawkers of the little cards for naked girls are most commonly latino. As we are in the casino's the service staff are most commonly black...
The beggars stack out ground on the few limited 'public' spaces. Much of the Vegas strip is in-fact not public space, it's part of the buildings that they are in-front of, and it's under the control of the security staff of that building, who 'Move Along' anyone that is begging, drunk etc. very quickly - and they contact the security at the next building to come and meet the beggar to keep them going.
I've passed war veterans, poor young couples on the street with their dog, a female accordion player with no legs and what appeared to be a woman in her 60's that had a sign up asking for help with her medical bills because she had cancer and needed treatment. She looked like someone's grandmother. Obviously ill, and in need of a warm bed a comfy chair and a little care, not sitting amongst the dirt and plants on the ground, with her dirty cardboard sign, half falling asleep in the afternoon heat...
The contrast between that crushing poverty and a society that is so obviously rich. So rich that they can build monuments to wealth, where people sit and put their money into machines and bet it on cards for hours on end in a vain hope of getting still more money, is stunning. This is a country that claims to uphold Christian values, to care what happens to people as Christ did. What I've seen here has nothing to do with the message that Christ gave us and much much more to do with greed.
It makes me sad, I suspect that I will return here sometime in my life, but I see little reason to seek this place out.
Three more days to go, and I'm ready to go home.
Photo: Evan Young 2012