Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 7, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments


Every once in a while, when I’m at loose ends, I’ll listen to a sports talk radio show, which is televised as well. It is NOT riveting television but the host, the other anchors and their guests really know their stuff. The other evening, they were talking about salaries for sports broadcasters. They estimated that some of the top television people earn between $5-10 million dollars a year. While this seems like a handsome sum, it pales in comparison to the athletes that they cover on a regular basis.

Lebron James, the talented NBA basketball player, earns around $80-90 million a year from a variety of sources according to Forbes magazine. Boxer Floyd Mayweather who fought exactly one fight last year, earned $285 million in 2017. He’s also a promoter of the sport. I can see why. Apparently the former CEO of Disney was earning in the neighborhood of $400 million dollars a year before he left the company.

If you go back in history, there has always been a disparity between the rich and the poor but it seems in modern time, the gap has become a chasm, and getting worse. A very small number of billionaires hold a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth. You can feel the restlessness brewing as the middle class shrinks. Something has got to give.

How can one individual earn more than the population of some towns and cities?

One of my all -time favourite short stories is called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” It was written by Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy and published in 1886. I used this story with an eighth grade class when I taught school in Alberta back in the late 70’s to explore the notion of greed. The protagonist, Pahom, makes a deal with Satan. He begins to acquire vast tracts of land. His empire grows making him a wealthy man but his appetite for land is insatiable. He is introduced to the Bashkirs . He has been told that they are simple minded and goes to them to buy as much land as he can get, at the lowest price.

For the sum of a thousand rubles, he can walk around an area as large as he wants starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. If he returns to his starting point that day, all the land his route encloses will be his but if he does not reach the starting point, he will lose his money and receive no land. He believes that he has negotiated a great deal with the slow witted Bashkirs. That night, Pahom experiences a surreal dream in which he sees himself lying dead by the feet of the devil who is laughing.

He starts at sunrise the next day and stays out as late as possible, marking out land until just before the sun sets. Toward the end, he realizes he is far from the starting point and runs back as fast as he can to the waiting Bashkirs. He finally arrives at the starting point just after sunset. Exhausted from the run, Pahom drops dead. His servant buries him in an ordinary grave only six feet long, thus answering the question posed in the title of the story.

How much land or money or real estate does one person need? Good question but at the end of the day, we’ll all get our own six feet.

I’m not here to trash capitalism or those who accumulate wealth. Many of these people are philanthropic and do a lot of good for communities.

The world is a pretty crazy place these days and much of the insanity can be linked to the gap between the rich and the poor.

Have a great weekend.


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