There is only one game in town for real success in America. The game is won by the person who acquires the most money, and fame, along the way. To finish respectably, you have to have, at minimum, by the time you’re old, more money than you will ever need. Ensuring yourself of this uncertain amount is a tricky proposition in an eternally insecure culture that operates on the casino model — big rewards for big risk but you can lose everything on a bad turn of the wheel. (That’s why you diversify, schmuck.) It’s also why, all other things being equal, it is best to inherit a hundred million dollars or more from your parents, who inherited it from their parents and on back several generations. Old money, there is nothing that smells quite like it.
I am a bitter man when it comes to the fucking rich and their endless privilege. I am disgusted by how their distorted worldview and values play an overly large role in public discourse, the laws we live by and the brutalizing poverty many must live under while others enjoy unimaginable luxury. Not content to enjoy their vast wealth and leave others alone, they frequently extend their slimy tentacles into the personal lives of millions upon millions of people who will never meet one of their filthy rich ilk. What the fuck is up with that? I’ll write more about my specific reasons for hating these supremely entitled fucks as soon as I set the stage a bit.
Hard-working friends with solid middle class lifestyles (a vanishing breed here in the land of the free) remind me from time to time that I made a conscious choice not to compete for wealth, not to dedicate myself to doing the hard work to advance a career, not to endure even a small amount of abuse in the interest of making good money, not to put in the long years to get a pension, a decent Social Security payment and all the rest. They suggest that I’ve made a choice they can respect, abstractly, but one that, sadly, identifies me as a cipher, an individual whose life, fundamentally, makes little objective sense in the larger ocean we are all splashing in. Condensed to a simple question: if I am so smart, and so talented, why choose to be poor?
It is not easy to explain, even to myself. Whatever I write here, for example, so much belly aching, no matter how well-written some of it may be. If someone paid me for it, as happened a couple of times when a guy bought short pieces for publication and swapped in a bunch of random cliches for phrases I’d carefully chosen, well, that’s a different story. The congratulations emails come flying in when the compromised prose was published. But this endless stream I produce in my daily writing? Well, it kind of speaks for itself, duddn’t it?
People literally don’t know what to make of anything we might think of as “artistic”, or even just expressive, unless it is monetized. If you see it in a museum, it makes you think, provokes a certain awe, you can read learned glosses on the work of art you are experiencing, the depthless insights of the artist, his influences, his place in art history. If you see something very much like that art work in your friend’s sketchbook, truthfully, what can you say? “I like the colors,” or “is that supposed to be anything?” or “is that me?”. If it arrives in the mail, you can just look at it and shrug it off with a quick shudder. What the hell is it supposed to mean?
Look, I say god bless you to anyone who doesn’t have artistic pretensions. My grandmother fucked me up good with that fevered dream of a genius so prolific and undeniable I’d be able to draw on a table cloth at the most expensive restaurant in Paris to pay my bill in full, with a thousand dollar tip. She didn’t factor in the magnificent ambition and entrepreneurial genius necessary to achieve a fame as vast as Picasso’s, the fame that enables a few brushstrokes on a linen table cloth to create an objet d’art worth the price of a hundred gourmet meals.
To my grandmother’s great chagrin, I was never ambitious or entrepreneurial, I just loved to draw. At the same time, ever since I was a kid, I realized, on some level, that time is the only real wealth we have. If you have the treasure of time you can invest some of it in learning to express yourself. This expression, it always seemed to me, was as crucial to develop as the ability to really listen to other people. Just to say, I suppose, that I have always had some kind of artistic pretensions about the meaning of my life and my abilities.
Which brings us to the arbiters of who is an artist and who is merely a pretentious person who wants to be one. Let me say, first, that I have no problem with these arbiters, no burning desire to see my casually scrawled signature painted, 100 times its normal size, on a tastefully lit white museum wall at the threshold of a lifelong retrospective of my work (unless, of course, I had to exert myself in no way and there was a huge cash payment to me when the museum mounted the show). Years ago it bothered me beyond describing that the “art world” was the province of a cliquish group of born-wealthy connoisseurs who were the gatekeepers of what is High Art and what is, well, simply neuroses made visible. Let them keep the gates, the palaces of art, the incomprehensibly priceless objets d’art and all the rest. I can’t use it.
Please believe, it is truly not bitterness about art. I have as little use for high art as I do for the catalogue of a show I saw as a teenager. Or my vast collection of Mad Magazines, long ago shipped to the son of an old friend who was also a great lover of the “usual gang of idiots” over at Mad. Or anything else, really. Being blessed is its own reward and I consider it a blessing to have these things I love to do, things that enrich my life, that make spending time doing them a blessing to me. I’m not grasping for any additional blessings, I’m just trying to explain myself.
Writing, it seems to me, is the most accessible form of expression. Everybody I know reads, many actually love to read. A well-written paragraph can break the heart or give a surge of hope. A handful of times over a long life someone will tell you “that was beautiful,” or “you made me cry”. Bingo, like a kamakaze finding the smoke stack to fly down, the explosion, the ship sinking, everybody on board killed.
I didn’t start writing this to talk about self-expression, though it is sometimes hard not to. We have time and we have the expression of our thoughts and feelings. Picture your life without either one. How was your day, dear? I had no time and nothing to say about it.
Onward, then, why I hate the fucking rich.
If you are born into great wealth, you will be given every chance in the world to grow up to be whatever you dream of being. You can be a contemplative, reading widely and listening deeply and, instead of merely speaking, writing your thoughts on the most beautiful 100% cotton paper available, in fantastically rare ink drawn through an exquisitely perfect writing instrument. You can go into business, whichever ones you like, with plenty of capital to support you in failure or success. You can be a lout, a spoiled rich idiot who simply follows his every impulse, shoots endangered animals, fucks people over, has lawyers pay ’em off to shut the fuck up, etc. If you are born rich, outside of murder with multiple eye witnesses (who are not members of your rarefied social class), there is little in your life that you will ever be held accountable for.
This kind of upbringing, in most cases, results in an individual who believes, as Ivanka Trump apparently does, as does her husband Jared, that anyone who works hard can become a success. The corollary is that failure is a vice of the lazy, the weak, the unworthy. If I managed, with a mere few million dollar loan from daddy, to launch a fabulous international brand, what is to stop these whining parasitic takers from doing the same, instead of bitching about how unfair life is?
Chris Hedges uses the phrase The Pathology of the Rich to describe the worldview of people born into vast inherited wealth. “Pathology” might seem a little unfair, even though I can clearly see the thing he describes, the thing I hate, as a disease. The simple cause of their rarified, if myopic, view of the world is not hard to see. If you are born rich you do not have the same experience of life as 99% of the world does. Hardly anybody can identify with frustrations they have never personally experienced. If you are sheltered from the most common frustrations of poor people, how will you have any way to relate to them? The result is a worldview that makes a certain twisted sense. Hard work equals good fortune equals being rich. Laziness equals poverty and self-pity, with all the other pathologies appurtenant thereto.
A rich fifteen year-old in an elite boarding school who happens to once make the childish mistake of using an eight year-old boy as an unwilling sexual partner? No need to ruin the boy’s life, either one of them! These things are worked out privately, discreetly, no call to get the police and the courts involved, destroying lives and reputations over a youthful mistake. A few words among gentlemen, the families both need to be consulted, there is a win-win resolution to be negotiated here. Otherwise the boys will both be shamed and the families’ good names dragged through the mud. Unthinkable. The young pederast will be forever tarred a pervert and sex offender simply for one youthful indiscretion. A terrible outcome, we can all agree.
If the young pederast had been a scholarship student, from a family of working class swine, well… we rest our case, that’s clearly a different story. Expel him immediately, after a call to the local constable. How dare he sodomize his social superior?!
Let the same outrage occur among the poor– these same enlightened philosophers on the board of the elite boarding school will set up a howl for the swiftest and most severe punishment of the savage young child-rapist. Society must never tolerate such perversion, such predation! How dare they?!
So far it has all been the hereditarily wealthy I’m railing against, but what of the people who, through their own tireless and heroic efforts, acquire vast, self-made fortunes? Some become so wealthy, mind you, that their excrement ceases to emit a bad odor. Universally, it seems, this type is admired and shown as proof that anyone who is talented enough, and dedicated enough, who works hard and smartly enough, can acquire a fortune. Anyone who makes a billion dollars is automatically considered a genius and a great authority on all matters, often the best possible expert on how to help the children of the poor and dispossessed.
It is no impediment, of course, that most of these self-made successes had many advantages growing up– the best schools, elite universities, crucial business connections, strokes of good luck including excellent timing. But forget that, these supernovas soon become just like their fellow twits in the highest branches of that cuckoo tree that is super-wealth. The best of the best. The only thing they require is vast returns on their already vast fortunes and the lowest possible tax bills.
Rich people necessarily divide the world into people like themselves, the very best people, and that vast and hopeless hoard of mankind who does not share their work ethic, drive, values, faith, native optimism. I can understand that. The part I don’t get is why these fantastically fortunate fucks are not content to enjoy their wealth without exerting power over the rest of us. What business is it of the super-rich if the children of the poor are able to attend excellent public schools? How are they actually affected if poor people are allowed to have access to affordable health care? If poor women are able to get an abortion if they find themselves in a difficult spot where they have to make that agonizing choice?
Why can’t these rich fucks just stay in their beautiful enclaves and be content to run the art world, the philanthropic world, corporate board rooms, high culture? If they could simply do that, I’d have no beef with them. But they can’t, can they? They need to make educational policies, and environmental laws, and human rights enforcement decisions for all of us.
They want to rule the world. They do rule the world. I have always hated the heedless, entitled motherfuckers who dream of nothing but more wealth, more luxury and more power. Yes, I know there are a some good ones, and just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re a grotesquely privileged, empathy-challenged piece of shit, though wealth beyond a certain point is strongly suggestive of it. I hate the rich for their ability to fuck up without consequence while haughtily judging everybody else. Fuck them and the whores they rode in on.