The One Percent’s Great Escape

By Michael Winship, Consortium News F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that the rich “are different from you and me,” which remains true today except now they don’t even want to be around regular people, seeking more and more remote locations to escape from the increasingly angry commoners, as Michael Winship explains. By Michael Winship My friend Craig Zobel just premiered his new movie at the Sundance Film Festival. Z for Zachariah is based on a young adult novel from the 1970s about a post-apocalyptic world and a woman who lives on a farm in a remote valley. A geographic anomaly, the valley has been isolated and protected from the nuclear radiation that devastated the rest of humanity. But then a man arrives and, a while later, another. You’ll have to see it. Craig’s movie is the latest in a long line of such stories about faraway, idyllic places trying to fend off human wrongdoing – from Aristophanes’ Cloud Cuckoo Land and the pre-serpent-and-apple Garden of Eden to the Shangri-La of James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon. In the classic, 1937 movie version, Shangri-La’s High Lama says to the hero, a British diplomat, “Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality.” Sounds like a typical night at Fox News. Z for Zachariah was filmed on New Zealand’s South Island, about as close to a distant Paradise on Earth as I’ve ever been. Which apparently is part of the reason why, according to former hedge fund director Robert Johnson, “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.” And not just a getaway for a couple of weeks of vacation fun. No, the British newspaper The Guardian reports, “With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences.” In other words, they’re getting ready to run away from the mess they’ve helped create. But instead of holding off the barbarians at the gates, they are the barbarians. Take your ill-gotten gains behind the walls of your Fortress of Solitude, you ubermensches, and pull up the drawbridge behind you. Johnson’s remarks about hedge fund managers seeking refuge were made at another greed fest, the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, high in the Alps, the perfect combination of attitude and altitude. He’s head of the Institute of New Economic Thinking, a board member of both the Economic Policy Institute and the Campaign for America’s Future, and a former managing director at Soros Fund Management. Jim Wallis, founder and president of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners, was at Davos, too, and has a more benign view of the proceedings. He’s on the conference’s Global Action Values Council, which holds daily sessions on ethics. But writing in The Huffington Post, he, too, saw evidence that the rich and influential are running scared: “Those who control the world seemed to feel, and be, out of control and unsure how to deal with growing and frightening global instabilities and the violence that keeps emerging. Terrorism and blatant inexcusable barbarism arise out of grievances and injustices that nobody wants to confront or seem to know how to address. In theological language, sin begets sin, and we don’t seem to know how to deal with that.” Robert Johnson recognizes that rampant inequality could be the death of us all. “People need to know there are possibilities for their children, that they will have the same opportunity as anyone else,” he said at Davos. Johnson continued, “There is a wicked feedback loop. Politicians who get more money tend to use it to get even more money.” Continue Reading>>>

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