I am sitting in a hipster Californian café, surrounded on all sides by young men with luxuriant beards, tasteful tattoos and piercings, who are intensely scrolling through single-geared bicycle websites. They are sitting beside bronzed, very skinny, yet muscular women, who haven’t eaten since St Patrick’s Day. It’s an uneasy experience.
If you want to feel like a different species, a hybrid version of humanity which has managed – like the appendix – to sidestep the cleansing, improving process of evolution, then this is the place for you.
We really look different to Californians. Last night I was trying to put my finger on it – and it has to be something to do with perfection. Take their faces – everything is in the right place, in the right proportions, no ear bigger than the other, no “sticky-out” ears and no bent noses. Meanwhile, the teeth are just an expensive work in progress which never ends.
Even ‘Gimme Shelter’ sounds better in this Californian cafe than it does at home. As does anything by The Eagles, which sounds naff in rainy Ireland, but listening to ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ while driving in the sunshine towards San Diego allows you to get the whole California dreaming thing. Similarly, “LA Woman” on the M50 doesn’t quite match the Lizard King on the Pacific Coast Highway.
I find myself working in Hotel California for a few days which, unlike Don Henley, I will be able to leave on Friday.
Being here gives you a snapshot of why America recovers economically and why, despite its problems, there is still a vibrancy here.
Flying into John Wayne Airport last night, to the home of Governors Ronald Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I wondered could any other people be so enchanted by Regan’s sun-kissed, political slogan “It’s morning in America”.
This is what it’s all about. It’s about the dream that tomorrow will be better than today. This is what drives the Americans. Unlike Europeans, they believe. They believe in the future. They believe in the story that the underdog has a chance and the good guy wins in the end. This is a storyline invented beside me here in Hollywood.
When the new nation went looking for someone to tell the story of America, it turned to screenwriters in the film business and they delivered a version of American history that served to reinforce the original notion of a special country with a special destiny, constantly pushing the boundaries.
The pioneer story of settlers and pioneers pushing further west and south is still strong among many Americans, as is Reagan’s notion of the “shining city on the hill” – borrowed from the Bible – that holds America up as a shining beacon for the rest of the world to follow.
Irrespective of how truthful this narrative may or may not be, it feeds into the regenerative narrative that if you just work hard you can get there. But we know this isn’t actually true.
Children born into poor families in northern Europe have a much better chance of upward social mobility than do American children.
The rest of the world is catching up with the US economically and at least here in California, the middle class, chilled-out lifestyle is bolstered by a huge illegal immigrant Hispanic underclass, who beaver away under the radar making the place tick over.
And the place does tick over.
It is easy to forget how big California is. This is the State that gave us Apple, Google, Facebook, McDonalds, theme parks, Barbie dolls, Frisbee, the Beach Boys and the contraceptive pill!
The gross state product (GSP) is about $2.05 trillion – 13.2pc of the United States’ GDP. The state’s GDP grew 2 per cent in 2013 after having grown 2.7pc in 2012 and 1.7pc in 2011.
California’s economy is the 8th largest economy in the world – it is bigger than Russia. LA alone has a projected gross product of $830bn, an economy larger than that of the Netherlands.
Similarly, San Francisco’s projected gross product of $336bn trumps that of the Thai economy. California is the only US state with a “minority majority”. Some 58pc of the population is Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other groups.
At this moment an astonishing 43.5pc speak a language other than English at home, compared to the national average of 20.5pc.
But California and America are getting more unequal.
Today, the Federal Reserve – the most important economic institution in the US – will reaffirm polices that will just make the rich even richer.
Keeping interest rates at zero, after years of printing money has enriched owners of companies and shares at the massive expense of workers.
Central banks all over the world are full of people who believe rises in real wages are inflationary, but rises in share prices that are mainly of benefit to them in the long run are not.
Worse still, central bankers all over the world have chosen higher share and house prices as the desired way to kick-start the economy.
But this only suits the “already rich” who own these assets.
As a result we are seeing monetary policies throughout the world – from the US, to Europe and Japan – that are designed explicitly to make the rich richer in the hope that they will spend more and ‘live up to their incomes’, producing the rising tide that lifts all the boats.
Sitting here looking out at Newport Beach harbour and beyond to the Pacific, as poor Mexicans slave away in the heat, bringing cold water to the beautiful ones doing early morning Pilates on the beach, it’s hard to decipher a ripple on the water, let alone the mythical rising tide.
Perhaps this is where the generations divide: For many of us this situation is ‘wrong’. Clearly, for others, it’s just fine.
A little nearer to home, and interesting book by the Economics editors of the UK’s Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers looks into this situation: Going South, by Larry Elliott, Dan Atkinson.
If you only read one book (other than the latest McWilliam’s) on this area, I would suggest this one. It made me realise that I wasn’t the only person with a feeling that things, generally, just aren’t right.
What a nonsense term.
Firstly “poor Mexicans” don’t feel the heat the way us white folks do. One of the first times I painted a building hanging off of a rope scaffold, a “poor Mexican” taught me how to tie my safety line and guided me through the motions of how to move up and down the side of the building safely and efficiently. It was 80 degrees on the side of the building and I was boiling, Juan never complained, he made fun of the “white boy” burning up. POINT is he was a good tough young Mexican who worked hard. His brother… Read more »
So why is the sunshine state still bankrupt if it has all these wonderful trillions worth of an economy?And ask where did the global depression originate from?? Answer the welfare state programmes of California the death knell being pushed by then Sen B Obama[Dem] and Sen H Clinton[Dem]. Under their “leadership and plans of opportunity for all,they made it possible for people with no chance ever of paying back a cent of mortages or loans to be able to get t property loans to buy their own houses.you could have got across the border the night before and could under… Read more »
I was watching Jon Snow last night hosting a town hall style debate on the Scottish referendum. The theme which seemed to be emerging from the Yes side, is that “the current system of deference to Westminister is broken, we need a whole new direction”. Then I turned on TV3 to watch Tonight with Vincent Browne, exact same theme there only the broken system and the disconnect between voters and decision makers was in relation to Ireland, a country that already enjoys independence. You’d have to wonder is there a gathering consensus starting to emerge, that the whole system of… Read more »
Good article David, unfortunatly most people who have never lived for any length of time in a country the size of the US or many other large european countries will never grasp the sheer enormity of the economies, I am more concerned about the 90 plus Irish family homes listed for repossession in just one small local Irish Circuit Court namely Tralee, this just one, these people are now so damaged by the financial crisis on a personal level that they may never recover, never mind that they may never be officially allowed to recover. I have just returned from… Read more »
Mexicans bringing cold water to the “beautiful ‘Pilates’ people” is no different to the Irish building the Skyscrapers of the major cities of North America in the early 20th century. We shall have to see the fate of the offspring of these Mexican waiters and where their lives/careers end up. Hence the dream! You could argue that the American “Education Industry” is beyond the reach of poor Americans unlike Europe. However we are at the emergence of an enormous threat to the “Education Industry” in the form of online learning free or otherwise such as http://www.mooc-list.com The ‘dream’ of upward… Read more »
I am sitting in an Iranian café, surrounded on all sides by young men with luxuriant beards, tasteful tattoos and piercings, who are intensely scrolling through single-geared bicycle websites. They are sitting beside bronzed, very skinny, yet muscular women, who haven’t eaten since St Patrick’s Day. It’s an uneasy experience.
I lived in california and as far as i can see People just live to work Unless your mammy or daddy is well off I remember working with a girl at night in a restaurant who had moved out from chicago Like me she studied science which basically gotyou a lab technicans job on minimum wage However she had guts and vision and did a degree in chemical engineering at long beach It wasnt the best college in LA but she got a good job with it If you go to los angeles be prepared to work hard and dont… Read more »
The present ‘luxuriant beard’ fetish, which is also present in Dublin makes these ‘hipster’ geezers look ridiculous. Still, whatever floats your boat.
It was only a dream – a carrot – with no reality
Sounds like Singapore. Get the cheap labour in so the brats don’t have to do the dirty work.
America IS a special country; California is a special state; southern California is a special part of California; therefore San Diego, where I lived for 38 wonderful years, is the most special place in the most special sate in the most special country on earth. Enjoy your brief one-day glimpse.
The western central banks are either privately owned (Federal Reserve) or privately controlled (independent) by bankers; and they serve bankers and the banks and their corporate scions; they do not serve our nations. This state of affairs is of course immoral and criminal. The assets upon which the credit creation power of a central bank is based are the productive and creative capacity of the population and the natural resources of the nation. Therefore the central bank should be publicly operated and serve the public. The central bank should rightly be a national public bank. In today’s world dominated by… Read more »
This Morning We Stand on The Isles UNITED .
We can follow it , support it or buy it and no matter what we are ‘ UNITED’
“Today With Sean O’Rourke:
Scotland says No – but it’s not business as usual, and nowhere to go – why many women stay in abusive relationships.”
I thought the juxtapositioning of these two topics this morning on an RTE talk show was rather interesting in a Freudian sort of way. Has Scotland voted to stay in an abusive relationship? 300 years of abuse and neglect has left the Scottish people unable to think for themselves. Thank goodness for the men of 1916 or we Irish would be the same today.
I thought their interests were better served with Independence but they had a democratic vote and the people said no, and nobody died in the process. It doesn’t get much fairer than that. The Scottish are insiders in the Union and the concessions that they may be able to extract might help to mitigate loss of Independence. I don’t think England views or viewed Ireland North or South in the same way. I think they’d abandon the North in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself and the South is not in a position to finance the welfare State or… Read more »
I said it on here around 3-4 months ago, that it wouldn’t be long before we would be seeing trailer park type solutions being introduced in Ireland to deal with the immediate housing crisis:
Congratulations to Scotland. Class, not nationality is the real issue. Working class v Ruling class. Our rulers are transnational; so must we be. Today we are ruled by a transnational globalist imperium of finance & industrial capital. The apex of the imperium are the bankers who own and control the central banking system and the monetary system. They create our money and sell (loan) it to us for profit (interest) as credit (debt). To call the globalist imperium a free-market or free-trade is a farce. We cannot oppose and reform the transnational globalist imperium by fragmenting into smaller and smaller… Read more »
Off Topic but very important…
Hi Adelaide The Isle of Man is a financial colony of the oligarchs; not sovereign in the way you suppose. Of course you are right that today we do not have “strong sovereign democratic republics”. But that is what we must aspire to have if we are to combat the transnational imperium. I am afraid that rugged “self-pride and grit” wont cut it. Anarchisms and separatisms and the like simply produce weak easily dominated enclaves and territories. Political equality and true democracy (strong sovereign democratic republics ) are at the moment only ideals toward which we need to continuously strive.… Read more »
Apologies for double post David.
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