The Depth of Our Shallowness
By John Berry, Chief Executive Officer, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia
Last week the news was full of stories about the college cheating scandal. Over 50 parents and others were indicted by the US Attorney for paying up to a half a million dollars to ensure that their children got into prestigious colleges and universities. Business people, coaches, consultants, and celebrities were all caught up in the web of lies and deceit. (Full disclosure here – one of the actresses was and is a close personal friend and colleague of a family member of mine).
These disclosures seemed to shock many. Frankly, I don’t know why. The use of privilege, power, and position to bypass fairness and equity is a common malady of our society. And the depth of desperation of some of these parents to get their wholly unqualified kids into a ‘name’ school is just another symptom of the depth of our shallowness as a society.
We spent more airtime, newsprint, and had more talking heads railing on this subject last week than we did on discussing the fact that the latest rules proposed by the federal government to the food stamps program (SNAP) would leave potentially millions of the poorest and most financially vulnerable without the necessary means to buy food. We spent more time being ‘shocked’ that someone whose contribution to society is being able to memorize some lines and repeat them in front of a camera had the gall to spend thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars to get their overprivileged kid into college than the fact that a large segment of that same economic strata of society balks at the thought of increasing the minimum wage so working class people can be paid a living wage. We tut-tut over the fact that phony student-athletes are photoshopped into make-believe scenes of their athletic prowess, yet we hear almost nothing about people who die each and every day because they can’t afford medical care or medicine.
We’ll move off the college scandal story soon because that also defines the depth of our shallowness as a society. The one-week news cycle, the social media moment, then move on to the next story about the celebrity who tweeted something snarky about another celebrity.
And the poor keep struggling to make it from day to day and the hungry keep wondering how they will make it until next week. But that isn’t the kind of news that we want to hear. Because acknowledging those issues, discussing those issues, fixing those problems takes a commitment, and a depth, and a shared willingness to put aside partisan petty differences and really work hard. And that commitment takes something much deeper than the depth of our shallowness. And so, we do nothing. Again.