The Race Into Space by Subhadra Jayaraman

Bezos got back from space just now, by the way. I vowed not to dwell on this trope of billionaires and their undeniably incongruous whims materializing when the world around them is, to put it lightly, burning like a dumpster fire. But it is hard. Bezos and Branson going to space and showing off their glittering accomplishments with childlike glee and superhero-esque suits and sparkling champagne flutes doesn’t really affect my everyday life. Until it does.

In a world still quite effectively plagued by the coronavirus pandemic, we catch ourselves looking at even our normal middle-class certainly-non-billionaire friends out at a night club or at beach vacations on social media, and feel a contorted pang of jealousy and exasperation and sadness. My friend recently expressed goodhearted reservation at flaunting our national park vacation on social media, because there are people out there cooped up and unable to even meet their families and loved ones. We don’t expect that they will live vicariously through us, we rightly expect that they will go down a spiral of depression and anxiety. Which we very well know they do. Sometimes, when we put up this considerate barrier, we respect the world on the other side of our screens.

Enter the billionaire space flight trend. For weeks, all we have been seeing is Branson rushing to beat Bezos, Bezos mocking Branson for not quite making it to ‘space’ – so worryingly, comically absurd! Expecting consideration from a man who made 86 billion dollars just in the 15 months of the pandemic surely isn’t an inhuman thing to ask?

But many have asked, would he perhaps look at Earth and see it from a different perspective? Would he change when he gets a glimpse of his own magnificent planet from afar? And then after landing, a few hours ago, Jeff Bezos said – “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.” It was not a quip, not a blurt from idiot who didn’t read the room – it was a sinister thought from a man who knows exactly what he has done. How must it feel when you float in zero gravity (in your interestingly phallic vessel) while your warehouse workers pee in plastic bottles! How must it feel from the top to look down and see the gaping chasm your unpaid taxes have created!

The allies will of course brandish various arguments, including the naïve ‘you can’t tell them what to do’ and ‘it’s not like other rich people are any better’ or even ‘why rain on his parade?’. Because indifference from us is what feeds their hutches. It has been the casual denials, sheepish unconcern, and deliberate apathy that got them gallivanting to space while others are razed to the ground. I’m not an advocate for the cancel culture, but dear Amazon, I want my refund!

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