Most people have trouble thinking. It is a simple sad fact about humanity that I have been forced to come to terms with. To be sure learning does not come easy, requiring effort and patience and nuance. People prefer pre-cooked ideas, pre-digested notions coming from pre-packaged prejudices. But who is doing the packaging, did you ever consider that? How about the cooking? The aristocracy; it is always they whom you will find if you pull back the curtain – desperate as they are to hold onto a diminishing power. These days, for years in fact theirs has been the careful manipulation of outrage and powerlessness. America’s aristocracy has for decades been – as Angus Deaton has said – “…raising the ladders as they ascend”. Or, if you prefer, throwing up speed bumps behind them as they race forward. These come in the form of privileged zip codes, of licenses and diplomas and certifications and regulations; of clearances and of minimum evaluation factors and minimum wage laws. All traps to stop those who might power ahead of them through a greater talent and work ethic and spirit.
Have you not noticed who are the winners and losers of the great pandemic? For that is not by accident either. Things were getting so much better for people of all colors and creeds; more equal, a weakened aristocracy fighting tooth and nail, but losing. But it was ephemeral, not yet solidified. These things take time; hence the justifiable frustration of a hard-working population having an arriving prosperity so viciously snatched away. Who wouldn’t be angry? Of course that prosperity was the main fear, wasn’t it – of the aristocracy? Truth of the matter is inter-generational elasticity is the lowest its been in America forever, and that is by the design of the few. It goes hand in hand with inequality; also the design of the few. These same people have spent a few years out in the cold and, scheming always only about how to return think they have found a recipe; by pitting American against American. But that is only the path to violence and hatred and the road to serfdom. Hatred is a force that does not build; it is only a force for destruction. So it’s time, at last – after everything else has failed – to think. In fact, its the only way to avoid America’s arriving serfdom.
Every morning, here in West Africa, as I prepare my little boy for his school – the gym and the recess and the library, PE and science class and field trips – I look through the window of my kitchen out over the manicured lawns, the play ground and the swimming pool and through the concertina wire to the Africa outside Elysium. There too, in the shadow of privilege, a little one-room school house has sprung up, built in a park that was quietly seized one night by the entrepreneurial homeless, a homestead in which no government official will interfere. Upon broken down benches and with no electricity, writing in pencil upon cracked paper, sharing aging yellowed books, West Africa’s urban poor hope for a better future which is, quite literally, just over the wall.
Privilege and inequality, those are the words of the 21st century world. We in…
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