Sunday, February 16, 2014

Not Seeing The Other Half

For some time now, Robert Reich writes, the United States has been devolving into a We and Them Society -- as in, Why should we pay for them? He sites several examples:

The middle-class and wealthy citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, for example, are trying to secede from the school district they now share with poorer residents of town, and set up their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-valued homes.

Similar efforts are underway in Memphis, Atlanta, and Dallas. Over the past two years, two wealthy suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, have left the countywide school system in order to set up their own.

One reason for the divide is -- and has always been -- race. But in the three decades following World War II, when incomes were rising for everyone, there was a notion that we are all in this together. As income inequality has increased, so has the notion that it is every man and woman for him or her self.

Now Americans can choose whether or not they wish to see their neighbours:

Being rich in today’s America means not having to come across anyone who isn’t. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.

America’s wealthy increasingly inhabit a different country from the one “they” inhabit, and America’s less fortunate seem as foreign as do the needy inhabitants of another country.

In Third World countries, the wealthy build high walls, topped with shards of glass, to make sure that "they" can't get in. Is this what America has become -- a nation where half of the country doesn't even see the other half?

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.


Dana said...


Owen Gray said...

Willful blindness, Dana.

The Mound of Sound said...

There are now affluent communities organized into municipalities with their own fire and police, utilities and works departments, schools and administration - gated and secured - where the affluent can maximize the enjoyment of their wealth unimpeded by the needs of the have-nots.

It's remarkable how much freedom and privacy these people are willing to forego for the protection of privilege. Little do they realize that the walls that keep the low life out serve equally to pen them up inside when the peasants finally do choose to lay siege to them.

Owen Gray said...

Self contained and self absorbed, Mound. They won't understand what is happening when the angry mob forces its way into their sanctum.

ffd said...

These gated communities don't protect rich people from each other. A bunch of often ruthless, highly competitive people who think being nice is a sign of weakness, living together. Oh, dear. OK, that's a generalization but with a certain core of reality. There have been some interesting murder cases in such gated communities; often the adolescents of such people do not do well in such hothouse environments.

Owen Gray said...

True, ffd. The rich can be very nasty when they turn on each other. There is no honour among thieves -- either rich or poor.