March 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
Financial security. Money. Call it what you want–but note–this is what compels humans to draw lines, build walls, and reinforce crude boundaries between themselves. Money as a necessary component for survival–now that explains the economic bust–and the resulting housing industry slump in the U.S.A.
Anand Giridharadas says it like so:
The Horatio Alger narrative maintains its hold in the United States. A Gallup/USA Today poll last year found that three-quarters of Americans still believe that if you work hard and follow the rules, you can achieve the American Dream.
But a large number of people also tell pollsters that it is becoming harder to get ahead, that tension is rising between rich and poor, that the rich are rich because of connections and fortunate birth. And for this writer, who recently returned to America after six years in India, it is hard to ignore a quiet turning in the culture, away from a once-sacrosanct faith in the malleability of fortune, toward ideas more familiar in feudal places: that class is a fate, not a situation; that the contest is rigged against the underdog.
In India, a suffix enforces such stratification. It is “-wallah,” and can be added to a service to denote the kind of person who provides it, generation after generation. A dhobiwallah is an inevitable launderer, a chaiwallah an inevitable server of tea. At times, it feels as if America, too, is becoming a Wallah Society.
No statistic can quantify this feeling. But to fly in the United States today or to hire a moving company or to speak to a taxi driver who is not a fresh-faced immigrant is to encounter workers who seem tired by their own histories, who seem angry from the moment your custom begins, who carry the pardonable frustration of sensing that time is working against them.
(Source: Waking Up from American Dreams , New York Times)