Obscene?

It was recently announced on ESPN, the voice of sports that only seems to grow louder yet rarely says anything worth hearing, the Indiana Pacers’ talented player Paul George, who recently broke his leg in two places, injured himself on the day of the delivery of his $370,000 custom-made Ferrari. In its report, the irony of the car being delivered the day of George’s injury was noted, but not the slightest hint that in this day and age such a thing is just a bit obscene. Karma? Divine retribution? Or is it none of my business?

There are those who say that a talented basketball player who makes mega-bucks is entitled to spend his money the way he wants to. It’s his. He earned it honestly, and it’s no one’s business how he spends it — except, obviously, ESPN’s. They make pretty much anything remotely related to sports their business.

But from where I sit, it seems not only obscene, but even a bit immoral — if something can be a “bit” immoral. Given that there are millions of people on the planet who can’t put food on the table and/or have no place to call home, it seems wrong for any one person to spend that kind of money on a car. I would argue as follows: a person’s responsibility is a function of his ability to act. For example, if I see a crime being committed and have an operable cell phone, I have an obligation to call 911. Recall the outrage expressed over the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York which was witnessed by a number of people who took no action whatever. Responsibility is a function of ability, which includes knowledge, though ignorance may not be an excuse. Presumably, I know that 911 is the number of the police. If I don’t know it, I should.

Analogously, if a person makes a great deal of money and is able to make a difference, no matter how small, it seems he has an obligation to do so. If one insists that Paul George may not know about the people in need, I would say this is irrelevant. He should know, especially in an age of information overload. It’s not a huge secret and we all have an obligation to know as much as we can about the world in which we live — if for no other reason than to try to make it a better place. After all, it’s what it means to be a civilized human being, isn’t it?

But, it might be the case that Paul George gives a great deal of his money to charity and this instance of self-indulgence may be a rare example of his lack of concern for others. This is possible. ESPN hasn’t told me whether or not Paul George is a charitable person. I doubt  they will, since it lacks the sensational element that that their many sponsors are eager to pay for. But the purchase of this particular “custom-made” car is self-indulgence on a grand scale, and that alone makes it worth reflection. It just seems to me that if a person is in a position to help another who is in need, he ought to do so. Further, at some point, buying expensive toys that we simply don’t need is obscene. I’m just sayin’……

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7 thoughts on “Obscene?

  1. Hugh, of course, we have Robin Leach showing us what the very limited few own in houses, sometimes more than one. I watched a show celebrating Robin Williams and it discussed his public charity, but also spoke of some is his private charity helping friends and people in need. But, as you have written about before, we live in a society where owning nice things is seemingly how to be happy. As the producer of “I Am” noted, that is not the case and one of the saddest days in his life was when he moved into the house of his dreams and realized it did not fulfill him. Great post, BTG

    • Thanks, BTG. I have a much higher opinion of Williams after hearing of the many things he did in private to help others. I wonder if his compassion for others and concern for the world we all share in common are
      what did him in??

      • We should at least highlight those who do for others more than the Ferrari buyers. My guess is his depression exacerbated by his Parkinson’s diagnosis. Any diagnosis like that is depressing, but when you already have depressive tendencies, that may have led him to take his life. But, who knows?

  2. Given that there are millions of people on the planet who can’t put food on the table and/or have no place to call home, it seems wrong for any one person to spend that kind of money on a car…”

    you are so right, and the differences between feast and famine are way out of balance. we can hope that many of the wealthy ones are benevolent and quietly spread their wealth.. but we all know lots who are caught up in the ‘more more more’ trap, and the poor are most likely invisible to them…

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