Realpolitik #10 – The Suburbs

Yes, the title is a nod to the current Grammy furore. No, this post has absolutely nothing to do with that débâcle.

The reason I haven’t posted in a long time is because I spent 6 weeks overseas, and have subsequently been snowed under by the potent combination of full-time work, university stuff and other commitments. Apologies, but now I’m back, and this post has to do with some of the stuff I experienced on my extended sojourn through the United States. This post is mostly anecdotal, so if you’re looking for something a bit more unbiased and analytical, look somewhere else.


America. The land of opportunity. A land where freedom rings from every village and every hamlet, every state and every city. And yet, as I found myself meandering through that glossy tourist hub of Los Angeles, it seemed like nothing could be further from the truth.

I stayed in a four-star hotel in West Hollywood; from my bedroom window, I could see the winding roads leading to the homes of the stars. On my walks through the streets, I found myself peering into the windows of Messrs. Vuitton, Boss, Cavalli. The experience was beautiful, though one could sense, simmering under the surface, a curious dichotomy in the city’s denizens. The models and the actors strutting along Sunset, and dragging their feet a step behind the bums and hobos.

Nowhere was this more evident than during one particular lunch that turned into an unexpected lesson on inequality. We went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch with one of my mother’s friends (don’t ask whereabouts in L.A., but it was about a 10 minute drive from West Hollywood). The food was average, but whatever, I like Chinese so I wasn’t about to pass up a free lunch. On the way home, we got lost and found ourselves driving through the suburbs of L.A. It was a humbling experience. In stark opposition to the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, here I found myself driving through the real L.A.; the suburbs, where parents work two jobs to put their kids through school.

Skid Row, Los Angeles

Everywhere I looked, I could see evidence of the downtrodden, the people whose souls were slowly being ravaged by their workaday lives. It’s one of the more harrowing things I’ve ever experienced, and it highlights one America’s underlying social problems, one that has actually gotten progressively worse. Since 1967, income inequality in America has worsened by 20%. The biggest cause of this, in my opinion, isn’t capitalism; it’s the education gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently wrote an illuminating essay about education policy under the Obama administration that was published in the Nov/Dec issue of Foreign Affairs. Duncan’s essay, though an interesting one, focuses too much on children as units that can be employed in the economy to maximum effect, with little emphasis on the social consequences of improving America’s much-criticised public education system.

Experts often speak in the language of the ‘information age’ and the ‘knowledge economy.’ Political journalists and scholars are increasingly pulled away from the personal ramifications of the education, instead focusing on the aggregate effects of competition. It is to be expected, as the story that increasingly dominates the thinking of international relations scholars is the rise of China, and America’s commensurate decline. But now, when I find myself thinking about inequality in America, all I can think about are the guys I saw sitting in the gutter at noon on a Wednesday, throwing stones and wondering where it all went wrong.


About Rage
Australian student with interests in music, film, literature, politics, pop culture and more.

One Response to Realpolitik #10 – The Suburbs

  1. MessianicRebel says:

    I hear that. The slow and awkward collapse of the American Education System…is depressing and worrisome. A gradual move towards collectivist opinions, reduced average literacy and mathematical skills, leads to a populace that has no opportunity to escape minimum wage servitude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: