Monday, January 16, 2012

The Moved Unmover

My grandfather was born before the Wright Brothers first flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. My father was born the day the stock market crashed in '29. I was born and lived a long time before my mother, working full-time while she wasted away dying from cancer to the point her co-workers couldn't stand the sight of her sickness and had her moved to an isolated room out of their view, had spent enough at the supermarket to amass books full of Green Stamps coupons that we licked and pasted into books that she redeemed to buy, in her final days, both a colour television and a microwave oven, our house being the first in the area to have such luxuries, the wonder of the neighbourhood, drawing gawkers to look on at such modern marvels. Today, in my hotel room in Sucre, Bolivia, I have a colour television with a connection that brings in a hundred channels or more, and I have a microwave oven to cook my dinner. No wonder. I have much that few would have dreamed of not so long ago, including a laptop computer in my backpack. I can communicate now with the universe in an instant, free for nothing, from a past that used to charge significant amounts of money for making a dial-up phone call across town. I am rich beyond the dreams of any man of my youth.

Since I was last on the road in the Third World I now see a change created by the unloosing of the Chinese economy and a nation of people dedicated to producing an ocean of consumer goods for the world. I could not have dreamed yesterday of such things as I see for sale on Sucre sidewalks today. I know the world without such stuff. I know a world with. I know the difference.

Ten years ago the Chinese had not flooded the world with consumer goods. Today, the world is flooded everywhere with Chinese things. If the Chinese quit their efforts today there will still be enough to last the world a hundred years. Chances are the Chinese will continue pouring stuff into the world for a hundred years beyond a hundred years. What I see in Bolivia today is for me a frame from a movie reel projected at 24 frames per second, if such a reference makes sense to the average reader any longer. No matter what I see today it is not what will be tomorrow's Bolivian reality. Tomorrow Bolivia will be a foreign country, not only for me but for Bolivianos.

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