Americans have always been advocates of the pursuit of wealth. So said George Soros, “It is easier to be rich in America than in Europe, because Europeans envy the billionaire, but Americans hope to emulate him.”
Lately, there seems to be a change in the sentiment of Americans toward the wealthy — they changed from loving them to hating them and it just gets worse and worse. The big spenders, especially the new billionaires whose material assets are worth over $1 billion, have become the target of harsh criticism in the media.
Unlike the old billionaires who were born into rich families, most of the new billionaires started from scratch and embarked upon business ventures which brought them great riches in return. In addition, they are well-educated and willing to work hard. Their new inventions and technologies, such as computers, cellular phones, genetic engineering and so on, have greatly improved economic productivity and resulted in relief to many of the problems that mankind has faced. Thus, in consideration of the high esteem Americans hold for laboriousness, the new billionaires should be very much venerated.
In comparison with the American billionaires of the past, the charitable spirit of the new billionaires soar past that of the former. They have nobler goals and a more advantageous management. For instance, Bill Gates promises to donate 98 percent of his personal property and Warren Buffett 99 percent. Together, they waged a campaign to send out a call to all the billionaires in the Forbes 400 to take an oath to donate at least 50 percent of their wealth in their lifetime. They also sent out a similar call around the world. The way these billionaires spend their wealth is as enterprising as the way they create wealth. Not only do they donate to outstanding charitable organizations and existing institutions, they also make use of their riches to test new solutions to many great problems. This has come to be known as “charity capitalism.”
They seem to be much more noble-minded, for they regard all mankind as one big family; many of their charitable projects deal specifically with such urgent global issues as humanitarianism and ecology. Their effort in this regard is reflected in the international meetings that they have actively instigated. Take, for example, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting which was held in Davos, Switzerland. Its theme was “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild.”
The Bilderberg Group — said to be the world’s government — holds an annual conference to discuss global subjects. There’s also the TED conference, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s Sun Valley Summit, the Aspen Ideas Festival, Google’s Zeitgeist and so on.
The gatherings of these top elites aim to share the frontiers in different domains, and to work together so as to confer and to come out with plans which will emancipate humankind from all hardship. In this type of gathering, the most effective permit is neither prominence nor money but “new emergences,” that is, a type of discernment of method or technique to bring about a change to the world’s potential. Interestingly enough, it is this spirit of human brotherhood which most repulses some Americans. Resentfully, they call what these individuals do the “revolt of the elites.” They are angry with these elites because they spent a great deal of money helping poor people in Third-World countries rather than taking care of their own.
In these Americans’ eyes, their charitable projects are like two-headed dumbbells for they — without having any regard for those suffering in their own country — either support high-end academic research or relieve the poorest people in developing countries.
Extremely dissatisfied, they have rebuked these billionaires for labeling themselves “the world’s citizens” and for being ungrateful to their country. Because they enjoy many unique advantages, these members of the “global class” have already gradually grown apart from the American populace, while America is still going through the economic and unemployment recession. In addition to that, there is a great discrepancy in their vantage points and attitudes toward the social economy with that of the common people. For instance, a hedge-fund top management remarked that the atrophy in the middle class was not that great a deal. From his vantage point, if the transformation in world economics enables four persons in China and India to be emancipated from poverty and be propelled into the middle class, this is not a bad transaction at all, since only one American is shoved out of the middle class in the process. On the other hand, an American network CEO said, “The wage that we Americans ask for is higher than that of anyone else in the rest of the world. If you want a 10-fold wage, you have to then create a 10-fold value for that. This might sound harsh, but perhaps it’s time for a reduction in salaries for the middle class in America.” This type of speech which appears to be fair is just what Americans loathe the most.
Christina Foley, the senior editor of Reuters, feels that the financial crisis and the economic recession that has followed have caused the gully between the billionaires and the common people to deteriorate into a heated political subject. “It is one thing for people to adore the billionaires when everyone has a job and is able to take advantage of soaring house prices and to enjoy vacations via home property loans, but quite another when the unemployment rate is as high as 10 percent and house values plummet, while the salary level of the top management of Wall Street has returned almost to that before the crisis; all these can easily ignite revulsion and anger in the common people.”*
Currently the profit of big business enterprises in America has seen recovery, but the is is: it is “globalization” that promotes growth; it is the overseas business of these enterprises that make money. What is happening in America includes the atrophy of the domestic middle class, the devastation of unemployment and the worsening of the polarization of income, coupled with a massive flow of funds into low-cost business in newly industrialized countries. In view of all this, there is little hope of recovery in employment and the future of small- and medium-sized business remains bleak.
Many Americans realize that globalization has promoted the growth of the world economy and has helped hundreds of millions of poor people in the Third World countries to escape poverty. This time, however, the general populace in America seems to only reap disadvantages rather than advantages in the reallocation of the profit of the world economy. Therefore, they increasingly dislike those billionaires who made a lot of profit from globalization. The image of them as “superheroes” is disfigured into “super villains”; the high-sounding propaganda of human brotherhood is reverberating ever more as an annoying shriek. There are even some who frighteningly claim that America has already fallen completely into the hands of the world billionaires.
Socio-psychologists who believe in the evolution of consciousness also believe that as manufacturing techniques and the system of the social economy develop, human consciousness evolves. In addition to that, human cognition becomes more intricate and the outlook on the world will also change. As society advances from a nomadic tribe to an agricultural then an industrialized society, people’s outlook on the world also evolves from “animism” to “mysticism,” then to “rationalism”; their moral consciousness too evolves from “egocentrism” to “tribalism/nationalism” and to “globalism.”
It is nothing unusual to see the emergence of the “new global citizen” with their advanced consciousness as the world marches into a globalized information age. Research by Don Beck, a socio-psychologist, estimates that approximately 20 percent of the world population has already entered the stage of “globalism.” These people adopt a universal viewpoint when they take matters into consideration. This type of person is extremely common in such domains as European environmental protection, human rights, technology frontiers and academics. The words and deeds of some billionaires seem to fit this model very well.
Samuel P. Huntington has acutely pointed out the emerging trend of “global consciousness” in an article that he wrote in 2004 entitled “Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite.”
Unbearable pangs of distress are inevitable with the birth of a new era. What will happen in the end? Will it be stillborn? Will it be a difficult labor? It all depends on how these prescient ones go about leveling the conflict between domestic politics and global development.
(The author is a local freelance journalist.)
*Editor’s Note: This quote, while accurately translated, could not be verified.