We live in a society where a monetary value is placed on every life. The lives of those who are born wealthy are placed on a much higher level than the lives of those who are born poor. Better health care for their pregnant mothers, better places to live, better schools, better food. When the kids are teenagers, the children of the wealthy are firmly on one track, the children of the poor are on the other.
It becomes clearer and clearer to those born in slums that life in America is not necessarily a meritocracy where anyone can win the lottery. They learn quickly that there are winners and losers, and the odds against them winning anything are maybe 1,000 to 1. Kids start to give into despair: drugs, making as much money as possible on the streets, carrying guns, getting pregnant, shooting other kids who they perceive as disrespecting them.
We can say that it has always been so, but rarely has the difference in outcomes been so stark or the violence and hopelessness kids in poverty face so brutal. The children of the poor have less opportunity than they did 40 years ago while the children of the rich, as a group and individually, are fantastically richer.
I don’t know where Jay Z grew up, but I know he is married to one of the most beautiful and famous women in the world, is a millionaire many times over and recently started a side business as an agent to the stars. His first client Robinson Cano, recently signed a $240,000,000 contract to play second base for the Seattle Mariners. Jay Z defied the experts in securing this huge ten year contract for his 31 year-old client, who had been offered more money per year by his team, the Yankees. Jay took his percentage of $240M instead of a piece of $175M. In the American schema, he won big time, got his client what nobody thought he could, a contract many feel will become an albatross for the team that committed to paying a 39, 40 and 41 year-old $24,000,000 a year for his services.
I saw the clip of Robbie at a news conference in Seattle, looking hurt, explaining why he didn’t sign with the Yankees, his first choice to play for. It took me a couple of days to make the connection, and then to begin shuddering anew at the horror, the goddamned horror, of the society we live in.
“I felt the Yankees disrespected me,” said Cano, looking truly sad about it.
The Yankees as an organization have always been jerks, big time, more often than not they act like the corporate assholes they are. But I wondered about a raise from $15,000,000 to $25,000,000 a year being a sign of disrespect. Then it hit me. Jay Z.
That’s how an agent wins, getting his client the biggest contract, period. Jay needed to make a splash in his new business. If his net worth is, say, $50,000,000, you can understand why he’d want to add some zeros to that as quickly and publicly as he can– it’s a matter of respect. (I just googled my man’s net worth– the bitch is worth $500,000,000 according to Forbes– same thing applies about adding zeroes, he’s only halfway to being a billionaire, after all).
“Nah, Robbie, they don’t respect you, man,” I can hear Jay Z telling the impressionable Cano as the negotiations started. Jay Z and his Yankee hat, Jay throws the hat on the floor. “True, and I’m sad to say it, you know I love the Yankees, but Ellsbury for virtually what they are offering you? Are they pulling our dicks, Robbie? Ellsbury for Cano? Really?” Jay is no doubt a persuasive man with a story, hitting that note of disrespect like the master Hip Hop producer he is, and at the end of the day, as they say, he was cashing his share of $240M rather than the insulting $175M the star’s current team was offering.
Now Robbie will cash a winning two million dollar lottery ticket every month for the next 120 months, instead of just for the next 84. Big difference, right Jay?
The principle of the thing makes me want to holler, like whenever I see a great actor on a TV commercial. The guy made $15,000,000 on his last movie. “Oh, but he probably got a million bucks to make this 30 second spot, it took him an hour, and he gets a check every time the commercial airs. Why wouldn’t he do it?”
The only reason I can think of is to send the message, no matter how quietly, that not every person who has talent and becomes rich is a whore. Or maybe to send the message that one can be content to win the lottery every few weeks, without making an extra million on the side whenever possible. Or, I don’t know, because so many kids in the slums are killing each other because we live in a society with only one value— get as much as you can and don’t worry about losers calling you greedy– and they ain’t never going to amount to much by that vicious bottom line.