Jul
25

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“Why do the finest flowers of the American Dream so often turn up in asylums, divorce courts, and other gray hallways of the living doomed? What is it about being born free and rich beyond worry that makes people crazy?” - Hunter S. Thompson, “Love on the Palm Beach Express: The Pulitzer Divorce Trial”

Dr. Thompson was right to ask that question as he roamed the filthy halls of the mega-rich during the infamous Pulitzer Divorce Trial of 1982. I found myself asking the same question as former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer was dragged off of the public stage, humiliated and ashamed, mocked and called a “whoremonger” by even his closest friends and family members.

The “Steamroller,” as he famously called himself, was steamrolled by his own massive ego, hubris, and strange sexual appetites. His political career is over forever and in all likelihood his wife will divorce him and take half of everything he owns.

But, in the end, Spitzer still has his hundreds of millions of dollars to fall back on. There is no possible danger of his having to join the poverty line, even with the loss of the six-figure salary that he once received as Governor. Shortly after his disgrace was made public, I told a room full of my wife’s girlfriends the True reasons for his shocking plummet from power.

“How could he be so stupid to think that he wouldn’t get caught?” one young woman asked nearly in tears. She, like me, had voted for Spitzer and had believed in his holier-than-thou rhetoric and that he was going to “bring ethics to Albany.” And she, like me, felt dirty and used for having ever believed a word of what he said.

“Remember what Fitzgerald said about the rich,” I said. “They are different than you and I.”
I went on to explain that it is hard for us, as average people with bills to pay and jobs that we have to go to, to understand the complete freedom from financial worries that being born filthy rich brings with it. “Imagine that suddenly you have no more worries about rent, mortgage, car payments, bills, debt, having enough for groceries, vacation, new clothes. No financial worries at all. Do you think your ideas about reality and life would be altered?”

The answer, I believe, is yes. The filthy rich are different than average people if for no other reason than they live a different version of reality than the rest of us. I’m not talking about the self-made person who came from humble beginnings and becomes wealthy through a combination of hard work, luck, pure greed, intelligence, and underhandedness. No, those people remember—however dimly—what it was like to have less and have tasted our version of reality at some point. They may be terrible and vulgar in their wealth now, but at some point they came from our world. No, I am talking about the filthy rich who are born that way. Perhaps they are a generation removed from our world and their parent’s were self-made, or perhaps they can trace their wealth back generations to the very beginnings of our country, when they were known as the “Whiskey Gentry” and stomped all over Virginia in a bloody orgy of tobacco growing and fortune building. Either way, they are warped in their interpretation of reality and it often causes them to commit strange and unbecoming acts that cause average people like you and I to shake our heads and shutter.

Those of the filthy rich who can trace their lineages back to the violent beginnings of this nation—or at least to the beginnings of the industrial revolution—can be considered America’s Aristocracy. Like the aristocracy in monarchal societies, America’s Aristocracy can trace their huge wealth back generations and the offspring of this vast pit of riches are almost guaranteed to have no sense of a normal person’s reality. And, like the offspring of royalty, America’s filthy rich are bound to produce children who manifest decidedly anti-social and even borderline psychotic tendencies.

In England for hundreds of years it has been well established that the lords and ladies of the realm would often times act in shocking, disgraceful, and downright humiliating ways. This was simply shrugged off as “eccentricity.” It is somewhat different in America where the average person is so overcome with the horrible burdens of daily existence that seeing a privileged person act in such a way fills them with insane jealousy and anger. But, this is a love/hate relationship because while being disgusted and angered at the privileged person’s actions they are at the same time placing these filthy rich freaks on the very pedestals of fame. There are entire TV shows dedicated to giving the average American short glimpses of what it is like to be filthy rich. Of course, these shows don’t show the degeneracy and madness that often goes with the lifestyle, but they do show the luxurious trappings that average people—buried by debt and mortgage—can only dream about. So, the average American is driven to hatred through jealousy and want, while at the same time worshipping at the altar of what made these fools rich in the first place.

This brings us, inevitably, to George W. Bush. W was born into a life of privilege beyond what most Americans can even dream about. Not only was he born terribly rich, but his own father was an ambassador, head of the CIA, Vice-President, and eventually President of the United States. W has never known true failure, even when his insane cocaine fueled drinking binges nearly got him tossed out of Yale. Daddy was there to bail him out, just like he always was later when W failed at every business that he put his hands on. But, it simply didn’t matter. Failure is relative when someone else is writing the checks and your father sits in the most powerful office in the world.

When W finally decided to take up the family business of big oil politics and ran for Governor of the oil fields of Texas, his father’s connections and name got him elected. The same thing happened when he somehow “won” the election of 2000. We can save the dark and dirty chapter of our history for another time, but the Truth remains that millions of average Americans voted for somebody who has absolutely no idea what having a “normal” life full of real failure, debt, and worry is like at all. Is it any wonder that the eight years of the Bush II regime has been nothing but an exercise in rampant greed, criminal activity, shame, terror, war, and degradation? Worshipping at the altar of wealth has given America something similar to what the Roman’s were saddled with when Caligula seized power.

The Truth is that the same 5% of the population owns 95% of the wealth as it did in 1980, 1900, or even 1776. And we, as average Americans in debt up to our ears, are worse off for it. Thomas Jefferson, himself prone to violent acts of sexual congress with the people he owned as slaves, was nonetheless aware of the terrible cost that indebtedness would have on the nation. A nation of debtors, Jefferson believed, was ripe for the influences of tyranny, while a nation of people who could support themselves could be a true Republic. The amusing part of it—if you are like me and prone to notice things beyond the TV set or computer screen—is that this country continually chooses to vote into office the same type of privileged weirdo’s that have ruled this country for over 200 years, with rare exceptions (Bill Clinton, white trash all the way and himself similar to Jefferson and unable to keep his penis out of the help). At some point you have to simply say this country gets what it deserves. If only we could possibly look at a ballot today and see someone who wasn’t born into the world of privilege, someone who might at some point understand what it was like to worry about bills and your children’s future, about lack of healthcare and the cost of gas. Someone who wasn’t from the ruling class, who wasn’t privileged. What would that person look like?

Would you vote for them?

“The real difference between the Rich and the Others is not just that ‘they have money,’ as Hemmingway noted, but that money is not a governing factor in their lives, as it is with people who work for a living. The truly rich are born free, like dolphins; they will never feel hungry, and their credit will never be questioned. Their daughters will be debutantes and their sons will go to prep schools, and if their cousins are junkies and lesbians, so what? The breeding of humans is still an imperfect art, even with all the advantages.”
Hunter S. Thompson, “Love on the Palm Beach Express: The Pulitzer Divorce Trial”