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Gary Horton: Maybe we're the strangers

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: October 27, 2009 5:34 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Luke Skywalker walks tentatively into the Mos Eisley Cantina on pirate planet Tatooine, his faithful golden droid by his side. “We don’t serve droids here,” a gnarly bartender barks out, and C-3PO gets rudely tossed out.

George Lucas’ camera pans through the dank, smoky bar, revealing a galaxy of creatures new to us at the moment, but soon to become as common as Star Wars itself.

Remember that famous scene? In that Tatooine bar, a cacophony of creatures of the galaxies rub shoulder to tentacle, passing time while sucking cosmic conscious-bending libations and haggling law-bending deals.

Here at our Wharton program, we sometimes look and sound a bit the same. To witness our own cacophony of diversity at the fifth floor pub is to relive that Mos Eisley scene — save the fights are on finance and governance, and lightsabers are checked at the door.

Out of 38 students, 31 are “foreigners” and only seven are American — two of which are from Washington state, so they count as French anyway.

We’ve got a Chi master from Taiwan who thinks and talks in pictures and draws awesome power points.

A South African insurance executive who, by his own description, “sells insurance the day long, but is a Zulu poet at night.”

There’s the rich, gold-chained Russian IT entrepreneur-near-oligarch building a 4,500-square-foot, gilded dacha along a Moscow river.

An assortment of pentalingual French, Belgian and Swiss bankers and insurance guys who lost billions in the financial meltdown. An Aussie public TV executive, the Malay high-rise developer — and a favorite, our Indian Sikh CEO of Tupperware USA.

We’re a colorful polyglot, and we Americans are the strange aliens at this table.

But rather than battling with lightsabers, we wrestle with hearts and minds. One hears from this heavy accented group different tunes than we generally hear around Hometown USA.

I am, of course, a Hometownie, and I can tell you most of us Hometownies don’t get around like much of the galaxy. So we often view the outside world though frameworks tinted in misinformation.

The French of our minds are lazy winebibbers; the Germans, jolly, techie beer drinkers; the English are irrelevant; Scandinavia is little more than an arctic sex shop — and the whole of the world suffers awful health care they just can’t stand.

But here at the Wharton AMP bar, the world is peeled open, unvarnished. No Fox News tinting, no Hometownie filtering. The only bias in this group is that all are capitalist business leaders. One would think such capitalists would think more or less like us conservative Hometownies, right?

Nope. It turns out Hometown USA might be the group from another planet. These guys are not thinking what you’re thinking, and they’re not thinking what Fox News tells you they’re thinking.

On Obama? No dissenters among the 38 — they’re pleased as punch. Their main complaint is, “He’s not being Obama enough!”

These guys hated Bush’s global bullying and shed no tears with his passing into irrelevance.

Health insurance? It’s not what you think. These guys love their national insurance. The Scandinavians and French wouldn’t tinker with a thing. These guys live longer and healthier than Americans, and when they eventually do get sick they won’t be running to America for treatment like Fox says. They’ll stay in their modern hospitals, paying dollars instead of thousands. Our maze-like medical insurance seems confused by worldly standards.

Bad news for conservatives on the global warming front. These 38 global capitalists buy it “all in” — including the high-level Exxon Mobil executive who will remain nameless. These guys study the science unclouded by Christianist “End of Days” framing and understand the impact.

And what of the hard-nosed capitalist Wharton professors? They’re working on ventures responding to global warming, not ignoring it. The smart, global money is on getting on renewable energy fast and building new infrastructure that will withstand the maelstroms with which Mother Nature is set to clobber us.

That’s just part of the “otherworldly” view from one of America’s finest business schools.

It seems America is losing big ground through infighting while the “foreign world” at which we scoff is busy moving ahead.

Time for America to set down its political six-shooters and start building a cooperative future. Failure to change will leave us outside the global party like some sort of rejected droid — a lot faster than you think.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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