I have friends from all walks of life and some are quite a bit more well off than I am. Saturday night I went to a house warming party of friends (and I mean friends in the true sense of the word), who just moved into an over $1 million home. And if you discount it as being Canadian dollars, don't. It's probably also over US$1 million.
I was very impressed with their new house, sure, what's not to be impressed? Their walk-in closet is the size of my bedroom, and their five-year-old daughter's room is bigger than my living room. Not to mention that her (the daughter's) adjacent bathroom is twice the size of my main bathroom.
So we walked around the house and I kept complimenting the finishing and the layout and cracking jokes about the sheer size and saying how pretty and all, until... until we reached the nanny's room. In a basement the size of a large, no, huge apartment, one corner was closed off as the nanny's room. Small and cold. Heck, it is smaller than any room I have in my little place, has a lowered ceiling which in some parts a person can't even stand straight. After seeing the size of everything else, this was quite a letdown. But I said nothing. I didn't comment on the fact that this nanny who has been with them for nearly five years and is raising their three little ones (the five-year-old is the oldest) has a dinky tiny cold room in the basement.
If that was the end of things, it wouldn't have been that bad, but later on in the evening, another person asked my friend if it is true that her nanny is away for a month. My friend explained that yes, she's away for a month to see her family in the Philippines. 'How did you agree to that?' the person asked. My friend explained that it was in their original agreement that the nanny would combine two years vacation and instead take a month off every two years. 'I wouldn't allow it,' that other person said in a belligerent and decisive tone.
It was at that point that I felt I should have said something. It was at that point that I wanted to say that just because we are fortunate enough live in a country that enables us easy life doesn't mean we should forget how others live. I wanted to say that just because we can afford having slave labour doesn't mean that we should act like slave drivers.
But I didn't. I didn't want to stir things up, you see, I didn't want to offend my good friends who stood by me when I needed them. I didn't want to criticize that person and indirectly my friends in their house. So I said nothing. In fact, no one said anything and I left wondering if no one said anything when the Nazis slowly came to power and people simply didn't speak out because they didn't want to insult their hosts, or because it wasn't appropriate in that social setting, or because whatever other reason. Of course, there is a big difference and I'm taking it to an extreme but I was just wondering.
And now, now I feel sick to my stomach you see. Sick for me, for everybody else who was there and especially for that other person, whom I always considered a friend, and probably will continue to see in social settings. And I know I will be polite, and that makes me sick. I don't think that person was polite, you see, I don't think that person considered saying things like that in a social setting the same way I considered answering. That person offended me and I will continue the relation ship as if nothing happened. And that makes me sick.