07/28/2012 12:29 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2012

Watching the Olympics and Seeing a Larger Picture

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We aren't conditioned generally speaking to watch our news media delivering facts while we and they take the time to focus on context. For example with the London Olympics, not only how much are they costing, but what effect are they having on the nations sinking into financial ruin, or into actual war or the ravages of poverty and climate change?

We all like a good time, and sports and the emblems of team and national enthusiasms can build the adrenalin of camaraderie for the positive. And while I don't claim to be anywhere above such manifestations of excitement, for a few reasons I felt detached and even somewhat embarrassed while watching last night.

I had had a discussion just yesterday, with a great nephew of Lino's, who is 16, during our visit to Puglia in the South of Italy. He is very bright and attending "liceo classico," the school that will lead him to university entrance. He is into cooking, though he made it clear it's only a hobby. When we talked about his future, his dreams, he said without skipping a beat, "Who knows if we'll be alive. Who knows if there will be jobs for us, given the economic conditions we have now." What could have been signs of potential depression in a young person, sounded much more like the echo of older people in Italy who see the country's conditions as dire and in no way moving towards the positive to any great extent.

Getting my news often enough from the International Herald Tribune these days puts American politics to the side and not as front and center as they are at home. Even with the scary state of European economies, there is also news and programming about the Islamist teachings and programming in Gaza where Hamas is becoming ever more strongly enmeshed in the daily life of the people there. Pictures of war and poverty and mass emigrations of hungry people are more commonly seen, so in watching the news there is something of a larger context. And this only makes my own sense of sadness at the stark differences between rich and poor more intense.

My idealism persists, even as it can be intermittent and more steadily matures to more of a willingness to be sober about politicians and their promises. Even so, I have always felt it somewhat criminal, on a personal level, to warn a younger generation that they will have it worse than their parents, that they are in any way doomed. It has seemed to me that we owe it to them, to my great nephew as well, to prepare a world that is better -- at least to be trying to do so. And that would mean to share our resources, financial and intellectual as well as those involved in giving a damn.

So back to the Olympics where billions of dollars have been spent, and where the sounds of "God Save the Queen" rang out last night in another sort of irony, with the mention of "God" (remember I'm in Italy where many balk at God's name being said "in vain.") The irony extended to the still-strong place of English royalty and aristocracy, as well as to watching as an America theoretically part of a revolution to free ourselves from England's rule not all that long ago! The hymn came after lavish scenes of dance, drama and song narrating the rise of the Industrial Revolution, and actually showed portraits of the rich shaking hands in great style, while the poor right at the side seemed to be slaving away and doing the real work... the dirtier work we are slower to recognize as of value. And Charles Dickens might have been vindicated in his vision of the class differences while we are in greater need at considering the larger perils of unchecked capitalism.

And then, nearly at the same time, I also wondered: What would it take to create an atmosphere full of wonder, even of adrenalin, even with some nationalist spirit, while attending to the needs of the planet, without leaving out on purpose all the nations who cannot afford to play? What would it take to establish an excitement about our youth and ask them to participate in the Olympic efforts it will or would take to employ working peace efforts and economic solutions to nations that don't involve austerity, while taking away jobs and incentives to average people?

Our young people are watching and listening as our magazines tell them they are screwed, as is their future. And so for me this remains criminal, and as such it is silly and more to watch odes to the Queen of England and to the rich capitalists whose heirs need control so they don't rob not only the poor but the rest of us who give them our money, and had given it with prior trust.

Can you imagine for a minute an Olympics effort that fosters the depth and breadth of talent of our young people, of young people all over the world, who may see better than we do, into the flaws of our world, and what it would take to put it together? As long as we are not all part of one big Humpty Dumpty, ready to fall and crack forever, we might just as well admit there are some insights we don't have.

That, according to me, would be not only inspiring, but it would add to our funds available for sharing. And it would add, also, to our resources of caring.