I think it was the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who once observed that if in modernity the First World showed the Third World an image of its future, in post-modernity this situation is reversed. Now, it is the Third World that shows the First World an image of its future. I keep recalling this passage when I’m walking the streets of Sydney, for I often get flashes of Lebanon and Beirut as I left them in 1976. For example, in Sydney, in 1976, I don’t remember people having too many flashy cars or being into exhibitionist ‘fashion’ as afar as clothing is concerned: you went to places like Double Bay to see this kind of culture, rather than having it as a generalised part of society, co-existing with ‘ordinariness’ and poverty throughout social space, as it was and still is today in Beirut. But now, of course, this is how Sydney is as well.
I don’t know if Bauman observed it either; I haven’t read enough of that wonderful thinker’s work (Work, Consumerism and the New Poor, from about 10 years ago, is amazing!).
I do know that this echoes what Noam Chomsky wrote in World Orders, Old and New, which I read in early 1995. He pointed out that the West (or more specifically the States) was becoming islands of affluence in seas of poverty, a la the Third World.