A person of good intelligence and of sensitivity cannot exist in this society very long without having some anger about the inequality – and it’s not just a bleeding-heart, knee-jerk, liberal kind of a thing – it is just a normal human reaction to a nonsensical set of values where we have cinnamon flavoured dental floss and there are people sleeping in the street.
– George Carlin (unreliable source)
I find this quote interesting because I’m intensely ambivalent about it.
On the one hand, compassion, or at least empathy, is good. I agree with Carlin there. Anyone of true Christian faith, or most faiths, is compelled to treat the poor well and it’s clear in most scriptures that helping those in need is one of the greatest, and holiest, things a person can do.
But the fact that we make cinnamon flavored dental floss (or not) has no relationship to whether there are poor people in the world, or how we go about handling poor people in our communities. There’s something naive in assuming one is causing or has any effect on the other.
Carlin himself was fond of explain how unfair and illogical the universe as a whole is, but here he’s equating a surplus in one area with being related to, or causing, a lack in another, which applies a kind of logic that isn’t necessarily inherent in the universe.
If anything, dental floss is cheap. Cinnamon flavoring is cheap. The $50 people spent to see Carlin perform is more of an extravagance than the fanciest dental floss. People worried about scratches in their $80,000 car, or getting stressed out about their summer vacation plans, as people around them can’t get their basic needs met is a better comparison of inequality that’s hard at times to comprehend.