Fairy Dust and Civil Unrest in the United States

This past Sunday, Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, wrapped up their first tour of North America with a “charitable tour” of Los Angeles’ Skid Row, home to one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in the United States.

Well, “tour” is one way to put it. Inside a Range Rover and abetted by a motorcade, they rode straight through the streets, stopping only inside the Inner-City Arts campus, where professional artists help at-risk youth learn and achieve through visual, performing, and media arts instruction. As for “charity,” we were fed doses of the magnanimity of Britain’s young and beautiful royal couple toward the American plebs.

Interestingly, about this spectacle, Camilla Tominey, NBC News’ Royal Expert, noted that Americans are generally transfixed by British royalty because, “Whenever they come to America, they sprinkle some fairy dust with them.”

This begs the question, for me at least, why might the spreading of fairy dust in Skid Row be in the interest of our own powerful few? Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under former President Jimmy Carter, seems to have addressed this question on the June 6th edition of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” (see the interview with Dr. Brzezinski).

Dr. Brzezinski has long argued for the necessity of something that might be called “fairy dust” to ensure against the instabilities that erupt from increasing economic inequality. On ”Morning Joe,” Dr. Brzezinski urgently warned that the United States might be on the brink of major civil unrest. That is, he said, without economic growth, or the sprinkling of a kind of charitable “fairy dust,” to make the country’s dire social inequality more “palatable,” the ongoing recession is likely to set the stage for the politicization of economic and social rights, particularly as more and more individuals are impacted by the crisis and join the ranks of those long-impacted by our country’s structural inequalities.

Indeed, structural inequalities are reaching levels not seen in decades, if not centuries. Residents of Skid Row face both extreme poverty AND what amounts to the largest concentration of standing police forces in the country (see the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s community report on human rights violations under this government program), millions of newly-impacted Americans struggle to hang on to their jobs and homes as their incomes stagnate, while the median pay for top executives at 200 major companies was $9.6 million last year—a 12 percent increase over 2009.

Will Kate and William’s fairy dust be enough to make the “greatest social disparities in the world” palatable to the American public? I hope not. It is prime time to see the edifices of injustice in our own country and finally bring economic and social rights home for all.