When I was growing up, one of the most frequently uttered threats from my parents was, “You will sit right there until you eat everything on your plate. Don’t you know children are starving in China”.  My knowledge, at the time, of starving children was limited to hearing about them over cold, soggy peas and I couldn’t find China on a map. But the American middle-class message, imparted to my generation of Baby Boomers by millions of Great Depression/WW II parents was clear: Waste not, want not; Be grateful for what you have; Remember those less fortunate, which, along with the country’s Judea-Christian values, is likely why the United States ranks as the most charitable, generous nation in the world. 

That generous nature seems to have trickled down to the following generations with a slight twist: If I set up a charitable foundation and give to the less fortunate, I can spend as much money on myself and live as lavishly as I please. To wit… The recent wedding of, according to Vanity Fair, “social media baron”, ala Facebook and Napster, Sean Parker, to singer – songwriter Alexandra Lenas.

A fantasy wedding path into the forest... Photo property of VF.com
A fantasy wedding path into the forest… Photo property of VF.com

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a free-market capitalist. If you earn it fair and square, it’s yours to spend however you like. Mitt Romney has an elevator in his garage, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz between them own five expensive houses, and David Tepper, of hedge fund fame tore down a perfectly good mansion in the Hamptons to build an obscenely bigger one with a sunken tennis court.

But in shear “I have it so therefore I spend it” fantastical audacity, the Parker-Lenas extravaganza takes the cake, the nine foot wedding cake that is.

A cake fit for a faitytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com
A cake fit for a fairytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com

The theme was “Lord of the Rings”medieval and the backdrop was a primordial forest that cost over $4.5 million to rent. The photographs, which appear in the September edition of Vanity Fair magazine and at VF online are simply breathtaking.  They also stretch credulity that mere mortals could create such a scene in the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose of one night’s revelry.

As I clicked through the photographs, followed by reading the story in the magazine; I’m a long-time subscriber, I had mixed emotions about the amount of money expended for such a self-aggrandizing reason. My artist’s soul was mesmerized by the beauty and creativity, the attention to every detail resulting in the closest thing to a living fairytale most of us are likely to ever see. And then there was my practical head which in I heard my mother’s voice saying, don’t you know there are children starving… if not in China, then somewhere.

4 thoughts on “Children Are Starving in China…”

  1. The gap between the haves and have-nots just keeps expanding. Of course people have every right to spend their own money. But it boggles the mind that this behavior is rewarded with media attention. We can hope that this couple is donating equal funds to a charity that supports old-growth forests.

    1. Kae,
      I found it interesting in the Vanity Fair article that it mentioned the deep regard and consistent support the Parkers have provided for old-growth forests. That’s a funny kind of regard; tromp through it with catering trucks, set up fume spewing generators, and drape the place with lights and glitter. One can only hope your supposition is correct and that the happy couple has been extremely generous to the cause of forest preservation…other than the one they used to throw a party for 400 of their closest friends.

  2. Charlie Versaggi

    I agree with you Pam. I am also a free-market capitalist and I don’t consider “greed” a family value. I’ve written to the Wall Street Journal to protest their addition of the “Mansion” section to their Friday edition. It’s just that – a 10 page spread of mansions. Given that a percentage of their readers are now un/ under employed and all the grief tossed around about the “1%” – I can’t find any sensible reason for the Journal to publish this “greed directory” for public consumption. It’s just another visual about what our society worships.

    A line from a song I can’t remember: “take what you need and leave the rest”. No one needs a nine-foot wedding cake, a $100million yacht or a $35million house.

    While there are children starving all over the world (in the US too!) as a society we revere greed. Even the title of the magazine you reference: Vanity Fair would suggest there’s something “Fair” about “Vanity”.

    We can never forget to care for those less fortunate – ever.

    1. Charlie,

      Thank you for bringing to my attention the “Mansion” section of the WSJ. I only view it online so somehow I missed that. And yes, why would they do that when so few, the proverbial 1%, could possible afford such places. And it must be so painful for the other 99% who are having a much tougher time and trying to get ahead or not lose what they have.

      Greed, is the perfect word to describe all this. I hadn’t used it in my post, but it is what we’re talking about. When I think about the difference that likely eight figure wedding could have made if invested in a jobs training program or accelerated high school courses, it simply makes me sad.

      I realize that both your comment and mine might be interpreted as having a tinge of “socialism” about them and speaking for myself, that is not at all the case. I think people should work hard, become successful, and do as they please with their money. Like you, what I find discouraging is the lack of character and weakness in human nature that, once success is experienced, the next thing that follows is not largesse or charity, but vanity and greed.

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