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Brainwashed By The Cult Of The Super-Rich

The rich are not merely different: they've become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled "aspiration". Reaching its zenith at this time of year, our participation in cult rituals - buy, consume, accumulate beyond need - helps mute our criticism and diffuse anger at systemic exploitation.

The demonising of the poor is the flip side of the cult of the rich; together they comprise the yin and yang of maintaining a dismal status quo.
 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/25/brainwashed-cult-super-rich

Brainwashed by the cult of the super-rich

Followers, in thrall to Harrods and Downton Abbey, repeat the mantra that the greed of a few means prosperity for all

Priyamvada Gopal
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 December 2013 12.00 EST

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Champagne
'We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled ­'aspiration'.' Photograph: Alamy
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Last week, Tory MP Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith's deputy, insisted it was "right" that half a million Britons be dependent on food banks in "tough times". Around the same time, the motor racing heiress Tamara Ecclestone totted up a champagne bill of £30,000 in one evening. A rich teenager in Texas has just got away with probation for drunkenly running over and killing four people because his lawyers argued successfully that he suffered from "affluenza", which rendered him unable to handle a car responsibly. What we've been realising for some time now is that, for all the team sport rhetoric, only two sides are really at play in Britain and beyond: Team Super-Rich and Team Everyone Else.

The rich are not merely different: they've become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled "aspiration". Reaching its zenith at this time of year, our participation in cult rituals - buy, consume, accumulate beyond need - helps mute our criticism and diffuse anger at systemic exploitation. That's why we buy into the notion that a £20 Zara necklace worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on a designer gown costing thousands of pounds is evidence that she is like us. We hear that the monarch begrudges police officers who guard her family and her palaces a handful of cashew nuts and interpret it as eccentricity rather than an apt metaphor for the Dickensian meanness of spirit that underlies the selective concentration of wealth. The adulation of royalty is not a harmless anachronism; it is calculated totem worship that only entrenches the bizarre notion that some people are rich simply because they are more deserving but somehow they are still just like us.

Cults rely on spectacles of opulence intended to stoke an obsessive veneration for riches. The Rich Kids of Instagram who showed us what the "unapologetically uber-rich" can do because they have "more money than you" will find further fame in a novel and a reality show. Beyond the sumptuous lifestyle spreads in glossies or the gift-strewn shop windows at Harrods and Selfridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop website, shows like Downton Abbey keep us in thrall to the idea of moolah, mansions and autocratic power. They help us forget that wealthy British landowners, including the Queen, get millions of pounds in farming subsidies while the rest of us take back to the modest homes, which we probably don't own, lower salaries and slashed pensions. Transfixed by courtroom dramas involving people who can spend a small family's living income on flower arrangements, we don't ask why inherited wealth is rewarded by more revenue but tough manual labour or care work by low wages.

Cue the predictable charge of "class envy" or what Boris Johnson dismisses as "bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching". Issued by its high priests, this brand of condemnation is integral to the cult of the rich. We must repeat the mantra that the greed of a few means prosperity for all. Those who stick to writ and offer humble thanks to the acquisitive are contradictorily assured by mansion-dwellers that money does not buy happiness and that electric blankets can replace central heating. Enter "austerity chic" wherein celebrity footballers are hailed for the odd Poundland foray, millionaire property pundits teach us how to "make do" with handmade home projects and celebrity chefs demonstrate how to "save" on ingredients - after we've purchased their money-spinning books, of course.

Cultish thinking means that the stupendously rich who throw small slivers of their fortunes at charity, or merely grace lavish fundraisers - like Prince William's Winter Whites gala for the homeless at his taxpayer-funded Kensington Palace home - with their presence, become instant saints. The poor and the less well-off, subject to austerity and exploitation, their "excesses" constantly policed and criminalised, are turned into objects of patronage, grateful canvasses against which the generosity of wealth can be stirringly displayed. The cult of the rich propounds the idea that vast economic inequalities are both natural and just: the winner who takes most is, like any cult hero, just more intelligent and deserving, even when inherited affluence gives them a head start.

We are mildly baffled rather than galvanised into righteous indignation when told that the rich are being persecuted - bullied for taxes and lynched for bonuses. The demonising of the poor is the flip side of the cult of the rich or, as a friend puts it, together they comprise the yin and yang of maintaining a dismal status quo. It is time to change it through reality checks, not reality shows.

homepage: homepage: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/25/brainwashed-cult-super-rich
address: address: The Guardian


The Rich Have Way Too Much 31.Dec.2013 18:46

bues

"In real life, tyrants do not laugh about starving and murdering children. Instead, they somberly address the nation about "regrettable necessities" and "shared sacrifices," then launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again."

Hmm. Maybe I used to agree with that. But lately in the course of my continuing project of developing my «Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About», I have come to entertain darker possibilities...

It's not like tyrants actually "laugh about starving and murdering children." However. The Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About has come to incorporate the notion that «the concept of rich people (and even of modestly affluent people) would be bleached into meaninglessness if the poor ones ceased to exist». That is, the rich need the poor and oppressed for the sake of their own self-definition. So therefor they "launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again." (Really only a neocon subset of the rich and powerful actively promote these pogroms; others just jet-set and so on.)

As far as this "Hunger games" thing; I've heard the term a hundred times, but never knew if it was a rock band, movie, TV show, or a whatever. I'm slowly pulling away from the grid; perhaps will end up living in a cave in West Virginia. Maybe the hip folks will even follow my lead.

No one should be allowed to own more that 20 times what they need to make a living and live comfortably. People should be required to register their substantial holdings, and if they exceed the 20 times limit, a random jury should force them to sell off the excess, and reduce their holdings to 15 times what they need. The proceeds should go to the commonwealth. Anything they fail to register should be confiscated, and those who willfully avoid registering assets should be punished. That is the only way to control economic royalism and protect freedom and human rights.

Most of our industry has been sold by the rich for profit and shipped down the river to other nations, and there is perhaps only one way to rebuild it. All large industry should be owned and completely controlled by democratic communities and towns. Each community would own an industry, which could only be sold to another community. Some communities would have to be larger than others. For example, an ironmaking operation would require a large community, or consortium of communities. There could be government sponsored research and development communities too. Employees would have to live in the communities, and thus there would be a powerful incentive to minimize pollution. Small businesses would be operated by ordinary companies.

There will be no more rich political parties. No more rich to be protected by vicious policing. No more rich capitalists selling our industrial facilities down the river to China. There must be some regulation, unless we want to be utterly ruled by ultra-rich tyrants. Wealth control would bring freedom and prosperity at last!

I have known about half a dozen billionaire's kids, due to my unusual background. About 2/3rds of them seem like nice people; they seemed friendly and decent. About 1/3rd seemed like exploitative creeps. Most of their family names appear on products that may be found in an average person's home. They were already rich. To me, rich today is having about $250,000,000.00 of relatively expendable money.

I think maybe 30% just live on trust funds and party. Maybe 60% have jobs of some sort, such as sitting in boardrooms from perhaps 10 to 50 hours a week. And maybe about 10% participate in fascistic political "foundations" which do vast harm to our nation and its people. So all in all, the rich screw us over, and thus bestow toxic negative benefits.

Average people do not envy these rich ones. "Envy" is universally defined as "resentful desire of something possessed by another or others." Ordinary folks, and activists also, do not possess energy to waste contemplating resentful desires — they are too preoccupied with dealing the latest toxic negative benefits being foisted on them by the fascistic elements among the rich.

We would all be happier and safer if the rich went away. For example, if no one was allowed to own more than 20 times what they need to live comfortably and to have a good income.