ROLL OUT THE GUILLOTINE

I don't believe I've ever done a post before directing you to Reddit – if you want to read Reddit, you'd read it – but this Ask Reddit thread is too good to pass up. Entitled, "What's the most WTF way you've seen someone brag about being rich?", it compiles readers' examples of hilariously ostentatious displays of wealth. Basically it is a narrative version of the semi-popular Rich Kids of Instagram tumblr.

As some of the comments point out, reading these stories gives me a much clearer understanding of why human history is filled with examples of poor people rising up and slaughtering their economic betters. I'm not saying I agree with it, but I understand it.

An interesting aspect of this use of the internet as a new platform for showing off one's (parental) wealth is the sharp divide it exposes between new and old money. Of the truly wealthy people I've known, people with family traditions of wealth have been raised (for the most part) with the understanding that such behavior is unacceptable. It is people with more recent, and potentially more transient, types of wealth that feel the need to turn their lives into a cheesy rap video. Look at the numerous posed photos of expensive champagne bottles and tacky, enormous gold accessories – visible "look how rich I am" symbols lifted directly from MTV. Some people look at Rich Kids of Instagram and see The 1% indulging in privileges unique to their station in life. I see modern Beverly Hillbillies, garishly appointed rubes acting out a cartoon-inspired vision of what wealth looks like.

That said, I'm pretty sure that if The Revolution ever comes the Rich Kids of Instagram are going to be first up for the Patriotic Shortener.

40 thoughts on “ROLL OUT THE GUILLOTINE”

  • Paul Fussell, in CLASS, has a term for what you describe: "prole creep." That is, as people who are entirely lower-class in their values, enthusiasms, and priorities are able to rise to the income-level previously held only by the upper-class, they bring with them their old values, enthusiasms, and priorities, but are now able to indulge them in ridiculously expensive ways. Hence, carrying around lots and lots of cash, which upper-class people never do, but which people who think that the purpose of money is to impress/intimidate other people do. Also, Hummers. Hummers with gold-plated gun racks. Designer tracksuits that are never worn to or from exercising. Wearing more than one piece of neck jewelry. Thinking that food in restaurants that are self-described as "gourmet" is better than food that is not. Great big ol' boats that never make it out of the harbor. I could go on. Point is: It is curious to think that the despicable behavior of "the rich" is actually the despicable behavior of lower-class yahoos who don't know how to be rich, and insist on being very loud and obnoxious about it. Those unfortunate, discreet upper-class folk of the quiet hinterlands of the Eastern Seaboard will wind up getting the axe because of the jackasses who struck it rich and don't know how to shut the fuck up about it.

  • So Paul Fussell blames the proletariat. Great. Another reason why the revolution is going to be bloody.

    Try reading the writings of capitalists from the gilded age or earlier, old money all of them, and tell me that it was some kind of low-class values that led them to praise things like child labor, workhouses, and in some cases, slavery with such delightful enthusiasm.

  • "…there is a greater distance between some Men, and others, in this respect, than between some men and some beasts…."

    -John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

    Hmm…Must have been his low class proletarian values shining through when he was condemning the impoverished(PROTIP: He wasn't so kind to black people and Native Americans either. Like the poor working class, they were deemed guilty of not mixing their labor with the land and claiming it, ergo they were undeserving of liberty).

  • It depends on the local law enforcement as to who's going to be the first to go. I suspect that in the USA of today the only revolution that has a chance of success is one that the police and sheriff departments and the national guards are either allowing or actually supporting.

    I suspect that there is a reason that the XIAN right has infiltrated the military and law enforcement at all levels. That reason is to control or facilitate a revolution from the right.

    "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not following me."

    No, I don't think they're following me. I think they're following everyone.

  • Excommunicati0n says:

    My department at the uni is set apart from the rest of the campus, as in it is across a private bank and the most expensive shopping street in the city.
    It's jarring to realize that the world of the (European) ultra-rich is utterly impenetrable to commoners like me, and that these people have absolutely no desire to actually interact with those lower than their station.

  • I call it credit card rich. We have a lot of that here, where (the newcomers – we have a lot of those too) don't seem to think you (or they) are "successful" unless they're carried a half million lor more in consumer debt.

    The trust-funder punks I grew up with (and there were a few) knew that if they bragged it up too much some half-breed would wipe that shit-eating grin right off their face.

    No fear

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Yeah, those photo's are probably of the children of plebe's who won life's lottery. Whether it's a real lottery, or getting the right job, at the right time – like, getting in on the ground floor of a start-up, or getting into a hedge-fund firm, and making a fortune.

    Families like, the Astors, are still out there. These families look at the Kennedy's, as crass, Irish-hillbilly newbies.
    Their children are carefully instructed to keep low profiles, do charitable work, maybe even some public service.
    They don't need the connections that Ivy League schools provide. THAT'S something the newly-rich-plebe's do. They want to get their kids in those schools, not just for the school's reputation, but for the connections their children would have afterwards, in case the family loses it's wealth, power, and position.

    If something does happen to the families fortunes, they want their obnoxious children to have a chance of acquiring their own mansions, limo's, and ceeeeeeeeeeement ponds.

    And, yeah, people like this will be the first to go, if there's ever a revolution.
    And I suspect the low-paid rent-a-cops they hire, won't protect them for too long. Probably, because most of these kind of rich, but cheap, MFers, enjoy stiffing "the help," at every opportunity.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that families like the Astor's, have been taught to take care of their security firms – and so, these firms and their employees take care of them.
    After all, they've been doing it for generations, and didn't just call "Rent-A-Goon."

  • Bob Savage says:

    The nouveau riche have been labeled and reviled for several generations at least. Lipstick on a pig.

  • Comrade Madison says:

    Never really occurred to me before, but now I think I would like
    to go cruising for gaudy rich kids around bar close, start knocking some heads in :) might make a cheap, entertaining hobby. Then we could have an Instagram called Rich Hamburger Faces of Instagram. Who's in?

  • Cheap, Comrade, as they don't carry cash. Might lift a watch, or an iPad or something else of no practical application. Entertaing, but a boonedoggle.

    The Astors, V, and the Rodhams.

  • About 5 per cent of the photos on the Gauche Kids of Instagram are of people who look like they're having fun with people they like, against an incidental backdrop of wealth. The rest are grotesquely unattractive bragadaccio.

    A rigid class structure is bad enough when those at the top feel a strong sense of noblesse oblige to those at the bottom. I guess we're getting a clear look at what happens when those at the top actively hate and disdain those at the bottom.

  • My fave Gilded Age plutocrat – aka Robber Baron – is Jay Gould. He just seems so completely archetypal, right down to this quote:

    "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half."

    Just try to tell me that isn't still true, 100 years later.

  • Heads on pikes! Heads on Pikes!

    Actually, the best way to counteract these self-important parvenus is by ignoring them and turning around to help the people less fortunate than yourself. And there are ALWAYS people less fortunate than yourself. Face it, life is unfair. Society is unfair. You can spend your life lamenting this or you can try to ease the burden someone else is carrying. It doesn't take a genius to figure out which path is the more satisfying.

    I live in Mali in the early 80's. at that time Mali was the third-poorest country on the face of the earth. We had a Malian friend named Tera, who lived with his wife and child in a compound with several other families. Twelve or so people shared an outdoor sqat toilet and a cooking area.

    My husband and I invited Tera out to a restaurant, on the way there we were confronted by a beggar, who stuck out his hand and began chanting an Islamic benediction. Tera reached into his pocket and gave the man a few coins.

    "Tera," I said (thinking like the average jerk American who has been taught to be contemptuous of desperately impoverished people) " why did you give that man your money?" And Tera said " because he's POOR."

    That interaction changed my life.

  • I am sure many of you have been to Versailles. Every time I have been there I can't help wondering why in the hell it took so LONG for the revolution. To live outside the palace and see all that opulence while you yourself are starving?

  • When I started college, rap music had just recently gone seriously mainstream. I was fascinated by the credit-card millionaires rolling around in military vehicles, listening to songs from guys like Jay-Z who had to work his way through crushing poverty to get to the point where he could brag about it.

    Like movie stars, real 1% almost always dress down when they're out and about. You'll never know unless you pay close attention to their watches.

    Bragging about wealth isn't really about impressing others. It's more about knowing how worthless you would feel without it.

  • @ Mo
    "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half."

    Once they do that, the only thing left standing is a battle hardened working class. Where do they think those guns will point to next?

  • Monkey Business says:

    @mothra It's worth noting that, in the US at least, the rich learned from their French forebears and built their palatial estates behind massive walls, far from population centers where the rabble might get a glimpse of how well and truly they're being fucked.

  • I am bothered by the equation of ostentatious display, unbridled greed and general stupidity with the " lower classes". The fact that they can hide their outrageous behaviours from us miserable plebes does not give them a ticket to respectability.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    OWS started a non violent revolution that met a brutal suppression. Therefore, it's either continue Bush/Obama oligarchy or a violent resistance to oppression and exploitation.

  • I'm not entirely sure it's quite that simple. Sure, it's human nature to show off, especially when it's new and unfamiliar, but you've got a couple things operating at the same time. There's the "I've got mine, Jack/Up yours" middle finger to the lesser people, which is not limited to the jacked-up rabble. The middle-finger you get from "old money" can be just as crude and blatant, but I suspect they usually pay someone to do it for them. I think what you all are reacting to is the basic hind-brain-driven "Hey Bay-bee!" advertising of young folks to potential partners/supporters. There's probably a lot of overlap there, of course, but the crasser stuff, I expect, is going to be largely the young folks. In that sense, I'm not sure that this general feeling that "old money" kids are genteel and restrained is necessarily the case. They probably aren't going to show up on these social sites, but that may be more a matter of different social circles than of different behavior.

  • @ Arslan: I feel compelled to defend Fussell–he doesn't "blame" the lower-class for their behavior, nor does he let *any* of the classes in the US off the hook. (He argues, for instance, that the proles cannot be criticized for their tastes because they are based on systemic poverty and powerful social convention.) And he describes the upper classes as being rather unpleasant people: intellectually shallow, unread, thin-blooded and above all, incredibly dull. They know how to be unoffensively rich, is all he's saying.

    And it occurs to me, actually, that there's a corresponding dynamic to prole drift–call it "hiltonification"–with the advent of the camera/video phone, the children of the rich are becoming increasingly likely to flaunt their wealth in grotesque displays of entitlement because, being young and idiotic, they do not understand the role their parents demand of them. And the children of the nouveau-riche are even worse in this regard.

    So, no, let's not blame the proles. Let's blame the goddamned kids, what with their rock 'n roll hi-fis and their bell-bottoms, why in my day-ZZZZZZZZZZZZ…

  • The implication that the "lower classes" are stupidly crass and contaminate the old money riches' culture makes me want to puke. The fact that the old money boys have learned to hide their excesses frm the dirty unwashed does not render them more admirable. I definitely prefer my friends in low places, many of whom have solid human values totally lacking in the wealthy folks I come in contact with.

  • I wouldn't denigrate the Clampetts. Sure, Jethro was a boob, but the rest of the family seemed quite down-to-earth.

  • I have lots of money (compared to most) but I am still cheap. My son wants me to spend $1,200 to go to a baseball game. . my instinct is to say NFW.

    and yet now he hates me! (at 13yo)

  • well, no use for the Reddit link, but the Richkids Instagram certainly brought to mind a word coined by my other favourite Ed: promosexual. I think the word has been considerably bastardised since it's inception, but in it's original form, so apropos.

  • @Middle Seaman:

    OWS was also poorly organized, ideologically vague, plagued with infighting, and considered highly obnoxious by a large portion of the public.

    Just wanted that on the record.

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    @Jeeeeed!

    "Sure, Jethro was a boob, but the rest of the family seemed quite down-to-earth."

    At least Jethro wanted to work. At different times he wanted to be a brain surgeon, an actor, or a 007-type spy. One day outside the mansion he tells Uncle Jed he wants to be a "double-naught spy."

    Jed stops whittling, looks up a Jethro and says, "Lotta call for that, is there?"

  • @Dave Dell

    "I suspect that there is a reason that the XIAN right has infiltrated the military and law enforcement at all levels. That reason is to control or facilitate a revolution from the right."

    The Pentagon is now cracking down on any Christian evangelism in the ranks and Bible Studies etc. Further our un-named, newly minted Mstr Sgt (see link) is getting a raft o' crap over his Chik-fil-A, DOMA supportin', hey ama Master Sgt party.

    What's happening here Dave? Is this counter insurgency against the XIAN infiltration or some PC weasels run amok? Or something else?

    For reference, about 80% of Americans are at least nominally Christian (forgetting sectarian disagreements) so it ain't like it is strange to run into a Jesus freak in the USA.

    //bb

    http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/6/army-soldier-punished-chick-fil-a-pro-doma-party/

  • Anonymouse says:

    @bb, are you seriously claiming the Moonie Times as a credible source of, well, ANYTHING?

    BTW, the last census showed about 76% of the American populace identifying as vaguely Christian–encompassing both the fundagelical freakazoids and the people who are merely culturally Christian but never attend a church or spend any time thinking about it.

    As to fundamental b.s. in the military, there are any number of sources documenting the extreme anti-Constitutional harassment of non-favored sects of Christianity and the blatant favoritism toward the favored sects going on in the military.

  • The old Romans wealthy, the senatorial class, were always bitching about the nouveau riche. That's one of the reasons the emperors got such bad press. Caligula was probably just some moody guy, but he liked prancing around his palace too much for old money tastes.

    I don't mind folks flashing their bankrolls, swilling champagne or whatever, though I've tried Cristal champagne and was unimpressed. If you have to blow some bucks on bubbly, go for something that tastes good. My main concerns are how they got their money and whether they understand where it came from.

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