Last night Jay took me to dinner and we were talking about my job. There has been – and will continue to be all summer, I am afraid – a severe shake up in the structure of my company…one of those kinds of shake ups that makes me glad I am a mere minion, paid a pittance and, therefore (at least for this round of hatcheting), off the radar. Eventually, however, our discussion turned to greed. There are some things I cannot understand as I told Jay and $500 pairs of shoes, $100,000 cars, $7.5M homes are among these things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the capitalist system. I believe that competition and incentive should drive people. I believe that people should be allowed to make money hand over fist. I believe that you can spend what you earn however you would like. Making money is one thing… unmitigated greed is another, however.
Today I came into my little minion job and read some of the blogs I read and the greed theme reared its ugly (green?) head again. I read this post at mommyshorts.com and then I posted this photograph of Melania and Barron Trump on my Facebook page asking, “What is wrong with this picture?” I got a lot of responses. It worked kind of like the Hidden Pictures game, but given time I can find more wrong with that picture than I ever could in the game on the back of Highlights for Kids. One thing I pointed out for those playing my game was that what you don’t see is the wet nurse, 2 nannies and surrogate outside of the frame. Not to mention the make-up artist, stylist, personal trainer and chef – just to name a few. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be this rich. Now, to be fair, I don’t really think Melania had either a wet nurse or a surrogate, but I assure you she had all the other personal attendants. Of course, she has to have some perks to live (and sleep with) The Donald. I don’t think I could do it, even for that price.
You would think that a modicum of self control would kick in and people would not live up to the extravagant greed that permeates our culture… but you would be wrong. Keeping up with a luxurious life style just goes too far…like when you are buying $800 prams for your 6 year-old-daughter to cart her baby doll around in. Or sporting a golden cell phone, diamond entrusted platinum lap top or solid gold Nintendo. Or, and I swear I am not making this up, bidding $330,000 for a giant white truffle (that is an edible fungus that grows on underground mushrooms used for cooking, if some of you didn’t know). Out of all of these purchases, the $330K is the best spent money – proceeds from the auction at which it was sold benefit an Italian organization that “helps sufferers of genetic diseases, a group that helps street children in London and Catholic charities in Macau.”
What is wrong with us? A solid gold Nintendo?!? I wouldn’t have a regular one in my house if you gave it to me (although I may be overruled by Jay on that one. I really don’t like video games, however I will make an exception for a Wii – just not a 22-carat solid gold one). Our society has taught us that if you are not living at least up to your means, and in the overwhelming majority of cases beyond them, you are not “making it.” How dare someone qualify for a $500K home loan but only opt for a $200K house? If you do not have a credit card then you must not be able to get one. The idea of NOT WANTING one is crazy.
How many Warren Buffets are there as opposed to Paris Hiltons? Check out this blurb from wealthandluxury.com: “The world’s most expensive car you ask? Well that happens to be a Bugatti Type 41 Royale that was built in the 1930’s. Only 10 were ever made and there is one left which has never been driven. The price you ask? Well that would be $10 million. A perfect gift…for yourself of course!” [I love the “for yourself of course!” part – really drives that greed home, doesn’t it?] I will say that – at the bottom of their homepage after offering a choice between first class and a private jet, 5 star hotels, a “concierge service” for your personal life, private clubs, fine dining, luxury homes, women’s fashion designers, men stylists, “shop[ping] for the best,” and relationships (all in that order) – there is Personal Development, which includes charity work. This comes just before the last thing on the list – a yacht. Priorities, people!
I have a problem with the structure of our morality and society when someone would think that owning a platinum diamond encrusted lap top is somehow desirable over, say, donating that money to St. Jude’s Hospital. It is not that someone who earns the money (or whose husband is a legendary soccer player and earns the money) cannot buy a solid gold cell phone – it is the idea that THEY WANT TO I find disturbing. In fact, I find it offensive that a solid gold cell phone even exists to be available for someone to purchase.
Now should we take their wealth and redistribute it thinking we can spend it (obviously) more responsibly than they can? No. But we should not look upon people with those kinds of priorities as role models. And they should feel a bit of shame at doing something that, while legal and within their rights per se, is just tacky and shitty. Instead of looking up to and wanting to be like Snooki, shouldn’t we want to be better instead of just rich and obnoxious? And shouldn’t our values as a society reflect that so instead of being in awe of the woman with the 8 karat diamond on her finger, we realize that just because you CAN does not mean that you SHOULD.
It may be easy for me to pass judgment. After all, I don’t have to worry about the temptations or keeping up with the Hiltons and all the pressure there is at that level of wealth and society. I will never be summering at… well, anywhere, actually. Maybe if I were not born to a man who spent 35 years climbing a telephone pole 14 hours a day after having to drop out of Auburn University to get a job and help support his family and who then married a woman, even though she did manage to attend college, whose home in rural Alabama in 1963 – when she graduated high school – still did not have running water…well, maybe if that were not the case, I would feel differently. Maybe if my first published baby picture were of my mother pushing a stage set golden pram in a palace I would not think that a solid gold Nintendo was an obscene extravagance.
I am sure I would have a different perspective if that were the case, actually. And I am glad I don’t. Now, should I ever find myself in a position of extreme wealth, will I enjoy the perks it allows? Why, of course! I would summer… in Europe. I would travel the world and my kids, and every kid to whom I am related, would have a college education free and clear. My parents would have their dream home – as would I. I would probably have a super cool antique car that would only be driven on the weekends, and a cabin on a lake in the woods somewhere far away from the rest of the world. [and that is just my brief list, Jay has one too!]
I just hope that when the temptation to spend $600 on those Jimmy Choos I could then afford comes that I could remember myself and go get a nice pair of $150 Enzo Angiolini’s and add another $500 to the charity of my choice…and that I actually would skip the Charitable Contributions section of my taxes and not suck up a deduction for doing something I should be doing. I hope I would be strong enough to balance perks with compassion and the wealth with responsibility…what scares me is that I may be kidding myself to think that I could.