Endless Curiosity

May 3, 2010

The world’s first third world first world country

Filed under: Economics, Life, Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 8:52 pm

These days it seems that we are slowly on the way to becoming the world’s first third world first world country. As I drive I notice more and more potholes in the roads, signs of a slow slide into the third world.

We seem to have lost the sense of a shared purpose that helped build and sustain this country. No, I’m not ignorant, I’m well aware that the country was developed through a process of theft, genocide, and giveaways, but at least the country seemed to come together in times of need.

Something has changed though. The obsession over lowering taxes for the wealthy, and the difficulty we have in addressing climate change are but two indicators of the lack of a national purpose.

Most tellingly to me is the way we fight wars with a volunteer army and mercenaries, rather than requiring all young people to serve in our military. We fight towards a supposed national interest but not require any shared sacrifice, only the ultimate sacrifice of young people out of sight and thus out of mind – hardly the sign of a real national interest.

The motivation for this post though was an article about ballot measures in today’s Business Section of the Boulder Daily Camera. It seems we will be voting on three measures in particular this November that have the potential to hasten Colorado’s journey to be a third world state. Remember that Colorado is already a couple of billion dollars in the hole.

  1. Proposition 1 would reduce that state income tax rate, and reduce sales and other taxes on cars. Its effect would be to reduce Colorado tax income by $1.7 billion. That would require laying off a lot more state employees, which would probably mean more potholes in the roads.
  2. Amendment 60 would slash school district mill levies by about half. Over the long run we’d become a much less educated state and thus a much poorer state.
  3. Amendment 61 would prevent the state government from borrowing. No bonds to build new bridges or roads or libraries. Given that there’s no cash surplus, it’s difficult to imagine how we’d build anything new.

But even that’s not the real motivation for this post. The real motivation is that I wanted to quote from and talk about Geoff Dyer’s book, Out of Sheer Rage. I’ll actually talk about the book in another post, but here I want to quote the section relevant to this post. Dyer is talking about visiting Algeria, trying to visit the places that Albert Camus had visited.

… Difficult not to take the weather personally and on this day, when it was so important that the sun shined, I thought of Camus’s own return to Tipasa: ‘walking through the lonely and rain-soaked countryside’, trying to find the strength ‘which helps me to accept what exists once I have recognized that I cannot change it’. Not like me. I can’t accept anything, especially things I am powerless to change. The only things I can accept are those that I do have the power to change. This, I suppose, is the opposite of wisdom.

I loved Dyer’s admission of not accepting things he is powerless to change, in complete contrast to the serene Serenity Prayer. It’s a wonderfully honest statement of how most people seem to react, arguing vehemently but doing nothing, usually because nothing is possible. And it’s just one of the gems on the book. More later.

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