"It’s very poor. It was the town center during the Time of Isolation, and it hasn’t been touched by renovation yet. Minimal water, no electricity, choked with refuse …"
“Mostly human,” added Piotr tartly.
“Poor?” said Cordelia, bewildered. “No electricity? How can it be on the comm network?”
“It’s not, of course,” answered Vorkosigan.
“Then how can anybody get their schooling?”
Cordelia stared. “I don’t understand. How do they get their jobs?”
“A few escape to the Service. The rest prey on each other, mostly.” Vorkosigan regarded her face uneasily. “Have you no poverty on Beta Colony?”
“Poverty? Well, some people have more money than others, of course, but … no comconsoles?”
Vorkosigan was diverted from his interrogation. “Is not owning a comconsole the lowest standard of living you can imagine?” he said in wonder.
“It’s the first article in the constitution. ‘Access to information shall not be abridged.’ “
“Cordelia … these people barely have access to food, clothing, and shelter. They have a few rags and cooking pots, and squat in buildings that aren’t economical to repair or tear down yet, with the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls […] If they’re sick, they either get well or die.”
“Die, if we’re lucky,” muttered Piotr. “Vermin.”
“You’re not joking.” She stared back and forth between the pair of them. “That’s horrible … why, think of all the geniuses you must be missing!”
“I doubt we’re missing very many, from the caravanserai,” said Piotr dryly.
“Why not? They have the same genetic complement as you,” Cordelia pointed out the, to her, obvious.
The Count went rigid. “My dear girl! They most certainly do not! My family have been Vor for nine generations.”
Cordelia raised her eyebrows. “How do you know, if you didn’t have gene typing till eighty years ago?”
Both the guard commander and the footman were acquiring peculiar stuffed expressions. The footman bit his lip.
“Besides,” she went on reasonably, “if you Vor got around half as much as those histories I’ve been reading imply, ninety percent of the people on this planet must have Vor blood by now. Who knows who your relatives are on your father’s side?”
Vorkosigan bit his linen napkin absently, his eyes gone crinkly with much the same expression as the footman, and murmured, “Cordelia, you can’t… you really can’t sit at the breakfast table and imply my ancestors were bastards. It’s a mortal insult here.”
Where should I sit? “Oh. I’ll never understand that, I guess."
from Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
I am amused by everyone’s reactions in this conversation, but the line that really makes me stop and think is Aral Vorkosigan’s question: “Is not owning a comconsole the lowest standard of living you can imagine?”
that line is sooooo important
She pours out honor like a fountain. And goes shopping….