It’s strange to be in my 50’s, having been a citizen of two very different countries, and watching both (and the world) change incrementally. A friend told me we don’t get any wiser when we get older, just older. I’m not so sure; I guess it depends on what one has in their head to begin with. The thing I seem to be getting is a different perspective; it’s wider, if not wiser.
Today I heard in the news that a group called Summit just bought a mountain in Utah for what I thought was a very reasonable 40 million dollars. $40,000,000 sounds cheap for a mountain. Summit is a company that puts together invitation-only events for leaders in business, entertainment and philanthropy. They seem to care about the communities, or at least pay lip service to caring about them, and probably even believe that the events they develop benefit the communities in which they insert themselves. In buying this mountain to develop as a playground for “leaders”, they claim they will be developing it in such a way to benefit the (by choice) sleepy community around the mountain. One of said sleepy community’s main concern happens to be that they do not want to be priced out of their community; and I am not sure how developing a mountain for the rich and famous fits in with such goal. I’m sure the legislators and developers will figure something out short term; but from my perspective, the long term does not look promising for this community's "non-leaders".
I was only half listening to this news item as I woke up from a slumber in order to get on my bike for my morning ride. But as I was biking through a beautiful and unusually cool pre-storm morning, its information kept resonating in my mind. I thought about our shrinking world, and about free-floating capital, and about the country I was born in, and the one I currently live in; the former labeled these days as “developing” and the latter as “developed”.
When I was young, what we now call developing nations were known as “third world countries”, or worse, “banana republics”; one of their main characteristic, then and now, being the existence of a small privileged class and a huge underclass. The world has changed some since then; communication is instantaneous and capital moves somewhat more freely, but the main structures seem to remain in place.
Americans are indoctrinated with the idea of progress from the moment they are born and throughout their schooling. I was schooled in several American institutions, so I speak from experience. We are schooled to believe that progress is inevitable, will mimic the very particular history of this country, and means that eventually there will be justice, political freedom and economic well-being for all. I was taught to believe this mumbo-jumbo in school, all the while growing up under a dictatorship form of government. Being young, I believed it.
The dictatorship is gone in Brazil and now it is illegal not to vote (irony?). And although there seems to be more money and opportunity, there remains a small privileged class, a merchant class, and a huge underclass. And as I was biking today, I thought of Summit and the people they cater to; and I thought of the global nature of our world and of free-floating capital. And as I thought of how the hopeful (and the young) like to see globalization as a vehicle of progress towards justice, and democracy, and economic security for all, I couldn't help but think that lately this here developed nation is looking a lot like the third world country I came from. That maybe globalization does not mean that eventually all developing nations rise to meet a higher standard, but that some rise and others fall to meet a middling standard where there will always be a small (and in some cases deserving) privileged class, somewhat of a middle class, and a huge underclass.
...But I am old; and 40 million still sounds damned cheap for a mountain.