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TygrBright Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 08:54 PM
Original message
Eat the rich? Eeeeyew, no thanks.
"Eat the rich!"

It's been a book (P.J. O'Rourke,) a film (1987, Peter Richardson,) a song twice (once by Motorhead for the film, once by Aerosmith, proving that no, you can't copyright titles,) and a slogan on everything from t-shirts to brick walls to treatises on Rousseau, who may or may not have started the whole concept.

Rich-bashing. It's fun, it's easy, and, best of all, it's DESERVED!

It scratches an itch.

It reaches a sore spot we all share, the conviction that someone, somewhere, is getting more than her/his share, undeservedly. Maybe even part of MY share, since I'm clearly not getting all of my share.

There is much to be said for a good old-fashioned righteous economic class-warfare rant, and heaven knows I enjoy it as much as the next populist, progressive, professional(?) leftie.

Because, let's face it, the rich ARE the problem. It's undeniable. Parsed out carefully, the empirical case is conclusive. Wealth, real, honest-to-gawd, jaw-dropping, cake-eating, king-making, economy-skewing, mind-boggling wealth, concentrated in the hands of the few, is the kiss of death for any society or culture striving to evolve humanity beyond the social-darwinism phase.

The lessons of history are clear: When societies band together to create political, economic, and social structures that decrease the concentration of wealth at the top, good stuff happens. People become more creative and inventive, society allows outliers to live and thrive and contribute, ethical philosophies advance, equity and the common good increase.

When societies give in to greed and pessimism and laziness and let nature take its course and wealth once again starts first to drift, then to stream, then to flood to one end of the table, life returns to the poor, nasty, brutish and short default mode. I've studied history for decades and I can come to no other conclusion.

It's tempting to think of "the rich" as a self-aware, smug, vicious little oligarchy of parasites sucking the lifeblood from the rest of us while crooking their pinkies daintily and smirking with sadistic pleasure at our feeble attempts to ape their prosperity with our designer clothes and Escalades and vacations to the latest Conde Nast featured resort. Doubtless there are a few among them who are robustly self-aware enough to have allowed their Inner Sociopath free rein and live up to the stereotype, too. ("Paging Mr. Cheney... paging Mr. Cheney...")

But there is a problem with the indulgence of this pleasurable and manifestly justified detestation. Two problems, in fact.

Problem One: The kind of "rich" who control enough wealth to have a genuine, measurable impact on the economic structure of our society--the "real rich"--are invisible. We do not see them, we do not know them. They do not get their pictures in "Town & Country" magazine, they do not hang out at Conde Nast featured resorts, they do not play in the "whales" game rooms in Monaco or Vegas, they are not depicted on reality TV. We do not see their opulent gated communities, because they do not live in opulent gated communities. They live in unobtrusively gated and guarded places where paparazzi are not welcomed and the buildings are so far back from the road, no one else except invited guests and paid staff know what they look like. I have met one or two. They do not wear obviously luxurious designer high fashion clothing. They do not drip with jewelry. You wouldn't necessarily pick them out in a crowd of ordinary well-off people. They blend. They are unobtrusive. They have no need to impress anyone except, possibly, their peers, who are similarly invisible to us. And their one-upmanship games do not revolve around high-end consumable commodities. They range from the inconceivable to the eccentric, but they are rarely profiled in glossy magazines or commented upon by pundits.

And since we don't see them, we are barely aware of their existence and the catastrophic effect their wealth has on our society and our economy. They stay out of our sights. Instead, we see the "merely rich," the Trumps and the posturing casino whales and the strutting socialites and the dwellers in opulent mansions in Aspen and Martha's Vineyard, and the inner-ring lackeys on Wall Street and K Street in twelve thousand dollar bespoke suits with suites of lackeys of their own. And we focus our anger on them.

And we focus our anger on anyone we deem "rich." And the poorer we feel ourselves to be, the larger the cadre of "rich" we feel justified in expressing our legitimate resentment towards. It's hard to argue against the notion that someone who makes $100,000 a year, has two cars, a four-bedroom house, and a time share in Florida is "rich" compared to someone who is scraping by on two or three part-time minimum-wage jobs, living out of their car and barely staving off the repo guy who wants that.

But they're not.

Even a self-aggrandizing, derpulous tool like Donald Trump, or a sleazy high-end con artist like Ken Lay is not actually "rich" in the sense of the "real rich." Yes, they have vaultloads of money, yes, they have stuff, stuff, stuff. Yes, they play the game and destroy the lives of others and scheme and acquire and flaunt. But they are, truly, a pimple on the butt of our suffering economy. An infected pimple, maybe. Even a potentially dangerous pimple. But barely a pimple, by the standards of the small, quiet, multi-generational coterie of "real rich" who make up the cancer that will kill the noble experiment of our Constitutional democratic republic. They are, at best, wannabes. Their children or grandchildren might make it someday.

The problem with focusing on the inner-ring lackeys and "merely rich" powerbrokers and "plebe-rich" entertainment and sports moguls is this: It makes it too easy, then, for those same inner-ring lackeys and others who know damn' well how the system really works and are mindfully facilitating the devolution of our society to set us against one another. Once you have the person who lives in their car scraping by on two minimum wage jobs focused on a deep and rancorous resentment of the person making $100,000 a year and spending a couple of weeks at their Miami time-share every winter, they win.

That's problem one.

Problem two is more subtle, and, to me, more troubling. It's too easy to equate "rich" with "evil." To assume that someone who is rich, even "really rich," is a bad person, or even just a morally inferior person, by the simple fact of their wealth. It's rarely true.

No one is a villain in their own mind. Well, at least no one who's not a bugfuck psychopath. Even sociopaths, vile as they can be, believe themselves to be rational individuals who are fully morally justified in pursuing their own self-interests at the expense of others' well-being. And most "real rich" people are not even sociopathic. Indeed, many are philanthropic, even altruistic people who espouse the same ethical principles most of us non-rich folks believe in. Even the inner lackeys, the "merely rich" and "plebe-rich," have human instincts of kindness and compassion and believe their actions are justified under the basic primate 'natural law' of promoting individual and family survival, well-being. As well as being legally and ethically justified under the system of Horatio Alger capitalist self-determination that has shaped our polity.

If we equate "rich" with "bad," therefore, we automatically create cognitive dissonance among those who look past simple (and admittedly satisfying) dualistic morality and who prefer to judge individuals based on their individual qualities, rather than their membership in a class that has harmed us.

That's problem two.

The problem is to focus the energy of righteous, justified rage, the power of shared indignation and anger, not on the easy but deceptive targets (people,) but on the unsatisfying and rather nebulous real target: The systems, attitudes, and assumptions that have allowed our society to come unglued. The concrete manifestations of those systems, attitudes and assumptions, and the beneficiaries who perpetuate them, may lose by the change, and will certainly vigorously resist that change. But in the long run I believe we'll be more effective by taking on the system rather than the people, no matter how obnoxious, annoying, and repugnant those people may be.

Besides, I get indigestion from eating gassy food.

So, I'll pass on eating the rich.

equably,
Bright
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 09:20 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thank you for getting the point about the truly rich
It's a point that people usually miss. The Trumps and Lays and Bushes and the rest of the "rich" mob that most people can see are the hired help for the truly rich, who want nothing more than a numbers game to help them impress the other truly rich. This is why they will always try to engineer the economy so that their numbers keep going up.

They honestly have no clue how much suffering that causes everyone else. In fact, they're as unaware of us as we are of them, by and large, although they might have hazy memories of meeting a scholarship student or two at an Ivy League or Seven Sisters school. They certainly didn't move in the same social circles, ever, they only caught a glimpse or two, perhaps eavesdropped on a conversation between students who'd had to work to get where they were.

However, the rage against the hired help is completely justified, since the hired help willingly created the system that sustains them all and the hired help make sure that system is never threatened. The hired help can see the rest of us and they don't like what they see. We threaten them.

Anyone who wants to change things had better learn these distinctions because in most violent revolutions, the hired help gets killed off and the truly rich simply change uniforms. The hired help should be left alive on the promise they lead us to the aristocrats they've been working to support. Otherwise, the whole thing just starts all over again and it always has the same outcome.

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Dr.Phool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
2. What's a good sauce for a lard-assed aristocrat?
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Uncle Joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 10:50 AM
Response to Reply #2
12. But of course, there is only one sauce that's fit to use.
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BulletproofLandshark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 10:00 PM
Response to Original message
3. One minor quibble.
That phrase has been of title of at least THREE songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8EZW7-NSNI
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costahawk1987 Donating Member (97 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 10:45 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Krokus! :)
I thought of those guys, too.
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 12:42 AM
Response to Original message
5. We have no clue of who they are.
They can hide perfectly behind the corporate veil.

I've often wondered if things might change dramatically if wealth had to be declared. I think it would make all the difference.

Also, why is it that labor is taxed instead of wealth? That has to be bass-ackwards. I wonder who came up with that scheme? If you think about it like the right-wingers, that taxes are some kind of punishment, then why is labor punished so cruelly?

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dotymed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 07:08 AM
Response to Reply #5
10. Hey, that is way too fair
to even be considered.
It amazed me that our President started with people "earning" over $250,000. They are not the problem.
Actually, every American should and could (if allowed) be in that category.
I am poor and disabled...
Yes, it is mainly the very few, generationally WEALTHY beyond belief, that are the biggest drag on our everything.
I know "trust-fund baby's" and I have seen their lifestyles. Some live more frugally than I do except when they decide to "jet away" for vacations to their family owned (unbelievably) opulent destinations.
The "Death Tax", (Orwellian name of course), should have never been repealed. It only affects the very wealthy....
Yes, cal it "Socialism" or whatever... Fairness is what I call it.
Restore taxes to pre-Reagan levels and add a wealth tax. How unfair...
:wtf:
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 02:45 AM
Response to Original message
6. I think that you are wrong about this:
The problem is to focus the energy of righteous, justified rage, the power of shared indignation and anger, not on the easy but deceptive targets (people,) but on the unsatisfying and rather nebulous real target: The systems, attitudes, and assumptions that have allowed our society to come unglued.

If you know so much about history, surely you will have noticed that people do not readily become angry at abstract concepts like systems, attitudes and assumptions.
***

It's really not systems, attitudes and assumptions that are the problem. It's the people who use those systems, attitudes and assumptions to grab more than their share while others go hungry, while others suffer in pain and have no shelter.

The irrelevancy of your differentiation between the filthy-filthy rich and the just plain filthy rich becomes clear when you think about the events that lead to the potato famine and the deaths of maybe a million Irish and the emigration of a million more.

Credit to Wikipedia and The Nation -- I don't think it was The Nation of today.

***

The following poem written by Miss Jane Francesca Elgee, a well known and popular author, was carried in the The Nation<65>

Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye? Human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, Hungerstricken, what see you in the offing
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldierswhat do they round your door?
They guard our master's granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? 'Would to God that we were dead
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.<66>
Speranza<67>

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_%28Ireland%29

The filthy-filthy rich, the just filthy rich, the somewhat rich and the will-do-anything-to-get-rich were all guilty for the terrible decimation, the genocide of the Irish. Laissez-faire economic religion and the ruthless government and social structures were the tools of the human beings who heartlessly refused food for the starving Irish.

It is often said that guns don't kill, humans do. Humans don't just use guns to kill. Sometimes they use institutions, structures like government or banks or prisons to kill. But it's still the humans who are doing the killing. The causes of hunger and desperate poverty are not abstract -- they are very human.



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sakabatou Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 03:02 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. nt
Edited on Fri Aug-13-10 03:02 AM by sakabatou
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sakabatou Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 03:02 AM
Response to Original message
8. I'll also pass on eating the rich
Too many taste like evil.

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ceveritt Donating Member (151 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 05:44 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. the rich
Yes, but they have such rich marbling.

Pass the gravy, please.
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Fly by night Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-13-10 09:13 AM
Response to Original message
11. My homemade "Eat the rich" window sticker has kept Hummers from tail-gating me ...
... for some time now.

A concept can be figurative (rather than literal) and still be quite effective, IM(NS)HO.
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