The Wealthy Want to Live Separately From the Rest of Society, But Do Fences Mean Safety?
SANTA TERESA, NEW MEXICO – August 27, 2018
The story began in 2014 after a Sunland Park city councilor created a resolution to annex Santa Teresa. Two hundred residents of Santa Teresa showed up to protest.
Residents of this wealthy area decided that they have nothing to do with the rest of the nearby poorer city of Sunland Park, New Mexico, and ventured to annex their community.
Following two failed lawsuits in the Third Judicial District Court, a New Mexico judge ruled on Wednesday in favor of Santa Teresa's appeal to become an incorporated municipality.
"We believe that we have the right to be our own city," said Mary Gonzalez, president of the provisional government of Santa Teresa. "We have the right to have our own voice and be noticed."
But the battle is not over: Santa Teresa must now have a new hearing with county commissioners, according to Doña Ana County Manager Fernando Macias.
"There is no final resolution at this time," Macias said.
"They have to conclusively prove that the city of Sunland Park cannot provide services.
There are close to 5,000 people that live in the unincorporated community of Santa Teresa and 16,000 that live in Sunland Park. So, why create two cities within such a small geographical area?
According to census data, the median household income in Santa Teresa is more than $40,000. In Sunland Park, it's less than $29,000. So the dispute stems not from technical or political, but a social class issue between the two communities.
Paul Piff, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, says he has conducted studies showing that as wealth increases, people become more insulated, less likely to engage with others, and less sensitive to the suffering of others. Nowadays the chasm between rich and poor in the city has begun to open up: separating the wealthy with walls and 24-hour private security from street hawkers, congestion and pollution is a global trend.
Real-estate developers and investors around the world have ploughed billions into gated communities and increasingly ambitious master-planned developments.
With high fences and guards, the rich try to isolate themselves from the problems and horrors of the world they have created for others. They naively believe that this will save them in the event of severe social unrest. But how long will these enclaves last? On the third day, the hungry and angry masses will realize that behind the fences there is rice, beans, canned food, and most importantly — water. The guards will likely lead the looting (they definitely will not wish to sacrifice their own life for the happiness of the rich). This 13th century mentality of castling will be broken by the same medieval technology which broke it then.
When in history have the elite soberly assessed the risks, or more importantly, change their behavior? The bad news for them is that the cost of error is extremely high.