When the economy began to self-destruct, the government of the nation of Dystopia took drastic actions to mitigate the catastrophe. It resorted to well touted austerity measures.
A majority of government funds were diverted from various departments to stem the financial hemorrhage, which resulted in a budget crunch. Since a balanced budget is paramount, after much deliberation marked by tormented debates and emotionally charged discussions, the elected members to the parliament decided with a heavy heart to stop funding essential services to the public.
Since the public needed these services at any cost, the government made the inevitable decision to privatize core government services. Everything, from schools to prisons, was contracted out to private entities. To pay the private contractors, taxes were raised on the majority of the population. The billionaires and the zillionaires were shielded from any tax increase, since they were in the minority. The government fiercely protected the rights of these minorities, who hired lobbyists to explain their plight.
When private enterprises expressed frustration about having to work within the constraints of governmental regulations, the parliament unanimously decided to do away with the regulations. They accomplished this by shutting down all regulatory agencies. Shutting down these agencies added to the unemployment, but the news media was ecstatic about the cost savings to the government.
A parade of chauffeur driven limousines glistened on the driveway of Spoon residence for a hastily convened meeting of the Spouses of the Magnanimous Minority. Perfectly groomed and accessorized women and men stepped out of the limos helped by ushers. They were led into thirty thousand square feet of elegant opulence that was the Spoon mansion. Each guest was announced by the head housekeeper at the ornate gold-embossed, diamond encrusted threshold.
Mrs. Spoon stood by the entrance with her private secretary, welcoming each and every guest with formal familiarity as they entered the large foyer. After the last guest was announced, the hostess vanished from the scene.
The guests settled comfortably in the vast lounge, while uniformed servants handed out refreshments. Pleasant greetings were exchanged, easy banter ensued. One talked about a recent family vacation to the moon. Some discussed the latest contracts their business landed ever since the economic climate turned friendly toward private enterprise. One remarked to the other about how young she looked and asked if she had plastic surgery done recently. The other one told about discovering a one-thousand year old yogi who taught new techniques that reversed the aging process.
Precisely thirty minutes passed after the disappearance of the hostess, when the butler announced the lady of the mansion. Conversation died down as everyone looked up to the ceiling as a single glass enclosure made its descent slowly into the middle of the room. Mrs. Spoon, who changed from the welcome attire to the Head-of-the-Committee attire, emerged with grand elegance to standing ovation. As she stepped out of the elevator, she said modestly, ‘This is embarrassing, people. You don’t have to applaud.’
She then led them into the plush conference room, crammed with the latest gadgets. She hired three highly skilled engineers to operate those gadgets.
After everyone was seated, Mrs. Spoon, who chaired the meeting, began to address the committee, ‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for taking valuable time from your day to attend the emergency session of the “Spouses of the Magnanimous Minority”.
‘Without preamble, let me come straight to the point. This committee is alarmed at the growing rate of the homeless people in our nation.
‘Even though large numbers of unemployed are finding employment, penury is still unmitigated. This is one of the contributing factors to the rapid growth of shanty towns all around the country.
‘Look at what happened to our dear little town. Few years ago, there was a thriving residential community beyond our estate. After the economic collapse, people simply left their homes, unable to pay mortgages. We were forced to buy all that land. We had to raze the dilapidated structures, just to maintain the real estate value in this area.
‘Then we decided to build a golf course on that land so that some of those unfortunate people could find employment again. This is also the reason we are adding a new wing to our humble abode.
‘Despite all our effort, these people are still unable to afford homes of their own because the housing market is still far from recovery. It is appalling how the government has done very little or nothing to alleviate the plight of these people. Hence it has fallen upon us, the few who are fortunate, to help out the less fortunate.
‘Here to help us fathom the current predicament, we have two of the nation’s most eminent economists here in attendance. They need very little introduction because they are the ones who advised the parliament during the economic collapse which helped navigate through some devastating times in the history of this nation. Thanks to their advice the economy is stable again. Let me introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Straitlace.’
With a flourish and to a loud applause, Mrs. Spoon handed over the audience to the Straitlaces. Mr. Straitlace signaled the gadget operators. The lights turned dim in the eight thousand square feet conference room with leather paneled walls and marble floors.
A nod from Mrs. Straitlace in the direction of the gadget operators, the room came alive with screens. Each one had a different display. There were charts crisscrossed with colorful lines, there were animated charts with state-of-the-art graphics, spreadsheets with rows of numbers, Venn diagrams at various levels of intersections that showed economic scenarios before and after the economic collapse.
The walls were filled with digital imagery of slums, peppered with faces of impoverished children with large doleful eyes, so as to impress upon the audience the degree of suffering endured by the masses.
The show began with the economist couple moving from screen to screen, gesticulating, explaining numbers and charts, sometimes digressing into the marvel of the gadget’s technology, while the gadget operators synchronized their actions perfectly to the lecture.
The audience listening with rapt attention were served lunch by discreet servants who moved around with unobtrusive efficiency. When the session ended and the lights turned up, the committee members were relishing their desserts.
Mrs. Spoon addressed the committee once again, ‘Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Straitlace for a highly educational session.’ Then she turned to the members and addressed them, ‘So this is where we stand at present. Entire school districts wiped out due to poor attendance, shanty towns cropping up at an alarming rate, rampant with criminal activities. We cannot build incarceration centers fast enough to fill them up with new inmates.
‘So What can we do about this tragic situation? How can we help these people find their way out of such misery?’ Mrs. Spoon sighed audibly, unable to contain her anguish.
The brainstorming began. There were suggestions about building more soup kitchens and temporary shelters. Then came a suggestion from one of the newest members – an idea for tourism development in the impoverished living areas.
Everyone trained their eyes and ears toward this member. She suggested building luxury resorts disguised as slum dwellings within these towns, so the affluent can live among the poor for a few days to experience first-hand what these poor creatures were enduring. She also added that it would be a good experience for their children to see the real world.
Excitement began to build in the room, as everyone liked the novelty of the idea. It was fresh thinking, they said. They admired this out-of-the-box thinking and began to build on it. A project began to shape up. The hotelier’s wife offered to discuss with her husband about constructing the resorts. Few others talked about merchandising opportunities. Others came up with ideas to promote the project. Everyone agreed that a significant portion of this venture should be donated to the Magnanimous Minority committee so that they could continue with the charity work of aiding the impoverished.
Mrs. Spoon offered to discuss the idea with the tourism minister at the upcoming gala she was throwing for several members of the government the following weekend. One of the members offered to discuss the idea with the finance minister about government funding for the project.
Mrs. Spoon concluded the meeting by thanking the attendees and the eminent scholars. ‘This has been a very fruitful session,’ she said, ‘We have accomplished much. Please join me in the coffee-room to celebrate the birth of a new project, ‘Uplift by Tourism.’