Monday, May 05, 2008

Movers and Shakers

One of my dreams, like Serina Hope's, is to become a published writer. Fiction, nonfiction, or both - it doesn't matter. I have notebooks and computer files full of fleshed-out scenes, lists of characters and their traits, snips of great dialog (well, I think it's great, anyhow), plot ideas and partial outlines, and all sorts of assorted reference articles. So far, all it's resulted in is one letter to the editor published in The Washington Post, and another published (with revisions that completely changed the point I was trying to make) in the Air Force Times.

And, of course, this blog ... but in the sense of being a "published author," it doesn't really count.

One of the how-to articles for aspiring writers of "thriller" fiction that I read long ago cautioned against using as a plot focus the single individual who was out to rule/conquer/destroy/enslave the world. According to the article, the world is far too large, complex, and resilient a place to be ruled/conquered/destroyed/enslaved by one person. I duly filed that bit of information away, feeling bad for the thousands of comic book and pulp fiction villains who have set out on the Impossible Dream, like this fellow ...

With all this in mind, I was - of course - very much interested in this article by David Rothkopf in the Outlook section of yesterday's Washington Post: "They're Global Citizens, They're Hugely Rich. And They Pull The Strings." The article begins with this memorable sentence: "We didn't elect them. We can't throw them out. And they're getting more powerful every day."

This group of about 6,000 people are those Mr Rothkopf refers to as the superclass, a class of people so fabulously rich (think Warren Buffett or Bill Gates) or hugely influential (think Oprah Winfrey or Rupert Murdoch) that their ability to shape opinions and events is greater in many cases than those of elected officials and even national governments. These are people who are, in contrast to the elites of previous centuries, largely self-made titans rather than inheritors of wealth and power, and they have more in common with each other than with the little folk like you and I. These are the people who can make things happen. Mr Rothkopf notes that while the Federal Reserve was credited with bringing the recent financial crisis under control, it was actually the action of a single individual - Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, who enabled the recovery by agreeing to purchase the Bear Stearns investment bank when it threatened to collapse.

I don't know about you, but I just looked at my checkbook and determined that I probably wouldn't have been able to rescue my own stern, much less Bear Stearns.

This is power.

Consider this quote from Mr Rothkopf's article: "Today, the world's more than 1,100 billionaires have a net worth that's roughly double that of the bottom 2.5 billion people on the planet. The richest 10 percent of adults worldwide own 85 percent of global wealth, while the poorest half only barely one percent. The world's almost 10 million millionaires have seen their wealth double to nearly $37 trillion over the past 10 years."

That's pretty heady stuff for someone like me, who is happy when his checkbook is in four figures not evenly divided on both sides of the decimal point.

So, who pulls the world's strings? Is it governments? Is it Non-Governmental Organizations (the famous "NGO's")? Or is it the global superclass - the people who can make big things happen with a few words in an interview, or a conference call to the right members of their class? The people we didn't vote for, or appoint, or approve for their positions?

All I know is this: Bilbo and the 15 faithful members of his blogging family probably aren't on the speed dial for any of the members of the superclass, even though the things they say, the decisions they make, and the actions they take will have a huge effect on us.

I think I'm worried about this, but I don't have time to be too worried, because - unlike the members of the superclass - I need to get my wide, aging fanny to work so that I can pay for food and gas.

After all, someday, I may need to help bail out some investment bank, ha, ha.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I think we all have dreams of being published writers or we wouldn't be blogging. I have 3 novels finished but they are crap so I would never send them anywhere.

John said...

Many years ago I read an article (in the Chicago Tribune, I think) entitled America's Affluent Poor. It was about the typical suburbanite with nice big home, two cars, etc., but living paycheck to paycheck with no savings or margin for emercencies or unexpected expenses.

After reading your article, I suddenly feel poor. Better get to work, too.

Amanda said...

That quote you have certainly has some staggering numbers in it. I often think about that 'superclass' and wonder what it would be like to have SO MUCH POWER. There is so much implied responsibility in those positions. I don't think I don't need that. A few more zeros in our bank account wouldn't hurt though. And, I'll be responsible :)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

They might all be asking us to bail out a bank before long!

Mike said...

Amanda, I can help with those zero's on your bank account. They can go either in front of the numbers to the left of the decimal point. Or behind the numbers to the right of the decimal point.