For anyone that flies or has flown on commercial airlines, below is an interesting and entertaining piece from the Guardian.
I have known this for years, which is why I avoid US carriers and most European ones.There was a saying, I believe used by cruise ships a long time ago, that said “Getting there is half the fun”. Of course, that ended long ago, but current travel in first class of the best airlines is not bad and a begin to any vacation. And, first class of the top carriers bears no resemblance to first class on a US carrier, except that both get you from point A to point B.
Don’t take my word. You can read an article from Vanity Fair on Emirates and the Dubai Airport. Notice the photo of the baggage claim area and compare it to ones you know in the United States…or Heathrow.
The following sentence in the recent issue of Vanity Fair caught my attention, because it nicely expresses a suspicion I have harbored about Washington for years, but have been unable to put into such concise words.
“...the message of television’s scathing fly-on-the-wall cam of our government in backstage action is that We, the Put-upon American People, are at the mercy of imperious psychopaths and callow incompetents.”
Have you noticed how weird women’s shoes are/have become? An increasing number of styles push form-over-function to an unimaginable extreme. I do not know how a woman can walk...or why they try.
I spent a significant amount of time accompanying my wife on shopping trips, either staring at window displays or inspecting/trying on items in-store. Shoe shops play a large role in any outing, and I spend a large amount of time being bored. A quick survey of all products gives me a good idea of latest trends, and then I move on to daydreaming. Shoe shops have the advantage that most offer somewhere to sit, something rare in a clothing shop.
On top of shop surveys, I cannot help but notice advertising for shoe brands or fashion brands, which often require models to wear weird shoes. Because I read Vanity Fair each month, merely flipping through the pages exposes me to the extremes that fashion goes...and goes.
I assume that the models are extremely talented, as are women that buy the advertised shoes. I could not take a single step or even remain upright without help in such a construction, not that I would ever try. My imagination works well enough and tells me that some forms of physical torture must be less-painful.
I may not be the smartest human roaming the planet, but I do observe what is happening within my field of vision and have been for years.
I have often used the euphemism “the country in which I was born” when commenting on aspects of the United States that disturb me. I have noticed a decline in the quality of life for the majority, a destruction of the middle class, and a growth of militarism/guns/fear.
An article in a recent issue of Vanity Fair touches on this subject and points out a major factor causing these changes. It deals with the papers of the eminent George F. Kennan and his confirmation of what I have observed.
I’m not sure if it’s gratifying or terrifying that such an august figure commented on the same issues during his long lifetime in government service. He points out the rise of certain negative aspects of current American life and the decline for the majority. He was an insider, even having a hand in some of the decisions, many of which he later regretted. I was/am an outsider, and he articulates the problem (with no solution) much better and with more credibility. I noticed blurred contours emerging into sharp contrasts over time. I am happy to have lived during a time when life in the United States seemed to have been good. Now, the American Dream is an illusion, a hype, and impossible to achieve...except for the wealthy. I see parallels to Dickensian England emerging in a land that was supposed to be “better”...which is sad. It did not have to be this way. Unfortunately, following the upcoming presidential election, things could deteriorate further.
_ This is the best explanation of the US problem and its hopelessness. Of course, it can be extrapolated to other Western societies, but the US leads the way. This is an excerpt from a Vanity Fair article, which I mentioned in an earlier post. I include this for all those that did not read that (even though it was extremely interesting and educational.)
Dr. Peter Whybrow, a British neuroscientist at U.C.L.A...thinks the dysfunction in America’s society is a by-product of America’s success....that human beings are neurologically ill-designed to be modern Americans. The human brain evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in an environment defined by scarcity. It was not designed, at least originally, for an environment of extreme abundance. “Human beings are wandering around with brains that are fabulously limited,” he says cheerfully. “We’ve got the core of the average lizard.” Wrapped around this reptilian core, he explains, is a mammalian layer (associated with maternal concern and social interaction), and around that is wrapped a third layer, which enables feats of memory and the capacity for abstract thought. “The only problem,” he says, “is our passions are still driven by the lizard core. We are set up to acquire as much as we can of things we perceive as scarce, particularly sex, safety, and food.” Even a person on a diet who sensibly avoids coming face-to-face with a piece of chocolate cake will find it hard to control himself if the chocolate cake somehow finds him. Every pastry chef in America understands this, and now neuroscience does, too. “When faced with abundance, the brain’s ancient reward pathways are difficult to suppress,” says Whybrow. “In that moment the value of eating the chocolate cake exceeds the value of the diet. We cannot think down the road when we are faced with the chocolate cake.” The richest society the world has ever seen has grown rich by devising better and better ways to give people what they want. The effect on the brain of lots of instant gratification is something like the effect on the right hand of cutting off the left: the more the lizard core is used the more dominant it becomes. “What we’re doing is minimizing the use of the part of the brain that lizards don’t have,” says Whybrow. “We’ve created physiological dysfunction. We have lost the ability to self-regulate, at all levels of the society. The $5 million you get paid at Goldman Sachs if you do whatever they ask you to do—that is the chocolate cake upgraded.”
Of course, all who do not believe in evolution could never accept the lizard bit; they will disregard all learning. Like all great theories, this one will be ignored.
_ Fans of the Tea Party movement or followers of Republican idiocy should read the following Vanity Fair article (unless they insist on remaining ignorant, which seems to be a favored option).
I realize that knowledge of history (such as the actual words and meaning of the US Constitution) is not important for these folks, but they do mean something.
One significant tenet of democracy is to have an educated population. (It would be especially advantageous if aspiring leaders were also educated/knowledgeable.) Unfortunately, education in the United States has deteriorated over the years and most learn the wrong lessons. Education and history seem to have lost in importance. Important are football and football coaches...
It seems that Americans criticize every country...but their own. I, on the other hand, am an equal opportunity critic. I point out everything and anything that catches my attention, which I do not like or with which I do not agree.
What brought on this rant? I read Vanity Fair each month, and usually every article. I like the eclectic mix of topics and tend to agree with their slant on things. This month their appeared a particularly biased and ethnocentric article about Dubai by a certain A. A. Gill. He must have picked the wrong time of year and let the heat affect his judgment.
I like Dubai. I take it for what it is. It is a good place for a vacation. It offers something for everyone, from families with children to the vacationing dictator, mafia boss, or petty crook. The top hotels are some of the best in the world. The service is unparalleled. It is a shoppers’ paradise, with malls that make the best in the US look like a 7/11.
The Vanity Fair article reported only the negative, but the author revealed himself as a hypocrite. Right from the start, he criticized the airport, one of the most modern, efficient, and clean in the world. He must be fond of those temples of misery one must endure when traveling by airplane in his country.
Las Vegas seems to be for him the gold standard of cities having sprung from the desert. The rulers are criticized for using mineral wealth to turn the desert into something more modern and not knowing what will happen once the oil runs out. At least Dubai will have water. Unlike Las Vegas, which is running out and is surrounded by sand, the Emirates are producing all they need through desalinization.
Of course the subject of labor comes up in any country outside the US, which has managed to import all the impoverished workers they need from Latin America. Unfortunately, workers are exploited in all countries in one way or another. Dubai might appear more blatant, because of the amount of construction and lack of indigenous labor. I saw similar scenes in Hong Kong and southern China. On the other, thousands of jobs are provided to people from poverty stricken countries. They might be worse off at home, but no one mentions that. Perhaps, the author should do an article on workers in the US, such as those of Walmart, who slave to make the Waltons one of the wealthiest families on earth. Unlike the sheiks, they have put nothing back into the country (I doubt they even pay taxes).
People may not like the strict laws, but Dubai is one of the safest countries in the world. If you play by the rules, it is a good place to live, work, and vacation. I have a friend that has run a business and raised a family there. He complains only about the summer heat.
And, one should look at the crime rate in Las Vegas or view the blatant peddling of prostitutes on the main street each night in front of the top hotels (even though it is illegal in Henderson County).
A few sentences before the author mentions arrogant treatment of foreign waiters by some local men, he states that he “tossed the key” of his car to the valet. I learned that one is polite to workers and does not to throw things. How is his action any less arrogant?
Ethnocentricity is easy...for stupid, lazy people. Hypocrisy is
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.