Allard: What happens when unconscionable wealth arrives and transforms once-desirable cities? (column)
Harper’s Magazine’s (July 2018) cover article by Kevin Baker titled “The Death of a Once Great City: The Fall Of New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence” provides excellent insight into what occurs when unconscionable wealth arrives and transforms once-desirable cities, towns and mountain valleys in which stable, middle-class economies are forcibly removed by power politics.
In his article, Baker writes:
“I have seen all the periods of boom and bust … almost all of them related to the ‘paper economy’ of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation.
“But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the ‘barely here’ — a place increasingly devoid of idiosyncrasy, the complexity of opportunity and the roiling excitement that makes a great city.
“As New York enters the third decade of the 21st century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable.
“It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community. … For the first time in its history, New York is, well, ‘boring.’”
Not to be overlooked in this scenario was, and is, perhaps New York’s most overt speculator and real estate developer, and current director of the U.S. presidency, who employs that office in furtherance of his principal interests.
The comparison of what happened in New York cannot be avoided when observing what has happened regionally, specifically to Aspen and Vail (and much of the American West) since perhaps the early ’70s.
For the current “culture of money” began to permeate American society possibly as an outgrowth of the Aramco/Saudi embargo difficulties, which eventually resulted in a dramatic, worldwide cost of living increase and a widespread fear of personal and collective economic disaster.
As is always the case, those who pursue wealth as their life’s sole purpose seek to isolate themselves from all whom they consider beneath their exalted realm.
Locally speaking, private golf courses, gated communities, private jets, expensive automobiles and high-end restaurants and gift shops became the trend in order to satisfy the “needs” for this isolation among the members of this “tribe.”
Along with the removal of much of the middle class came the arrival of the poor and, in the main, illegal immigration, for the wealthy do not wash their own windows or do their own laundry.
Unlike New York City, however, Aspen and Vail were located in national forests — God’s intended, and necessary, once-pristine wilderness.
Hence, in view of such ignorance and greed, the wilderness became contaminated by ostentatious mansions on the one hand and the ugly presence of trailer parks on the other.
Meanwhile local, national and international promoters continue their audacity in depicting these mountain valleys as “paradise on Earth,” which, of course, is a falsehood and an absurdity, and which brings us to the matter of “time,” which concerns life on Earth, and “eternity,” which promises an actual paradise, but only for those who are dedicated to “truth.”
Thus, the pursuit of truth, rather than the pursuit of wealth, must become one’s principal effort in order to arrive at “paradise.”
For the origin and end of one’s life in time reveals the truth of a creator and Eventual judge.
And so, in summation, it must be said that judgment will not go well for those who deny such truth but who continue to believe that their “paradise” remains achievable to them through their false and destructive program of the culture of wealth.
Art Allard is a Vail resident.
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