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Fattening up the idle rich

If the rest of us are sweating through a wretched climate-change-seared August, it's a good bet the super-rich and powerful are calm, air-conditioned and happily summering in the world's most posh retreats.

Of course, to paraphrase the late great Molly Ivins, most Americans do not employ the word "summer" as a verb, because such usage implies an annual season of luxury that the typical prole can only dream of during his few days off at the local state park (if he's lucky to have a vacation and lucky enough to live near a state park that hasn't been shuttered by budget cuts). But summering is what the wealthy do -- and when they do it so ostentatiously in such a pulverizing recession, it all but screams "Let Them Eat Cake."

So, too, does the rhetoric of a presidential race beginning in earnest. As the 2012 candidates now romp through primary-state hamlets, they are already road-testing a carefully sculpted type of "Let Them Eat Cake" rhetoric that somehow makes them sound simultaneously like populist Huey Longs and loyal mouthpieces for their biggest corporate campaign contributors.

With that as a preview, let's look at this month in "Let Them Eat Cake." (David Sirota, “‘Let them eat cake!’: Summer edition,” Salon, 17 August 2011)

We're not exactly shoving this exulted pap down their throats, but ...

Let's admit it to ourselves. Many of us wanted these kinds of stories to circulate, for they make us, by way of contrast, in our poorness, insecurity, and perpetual striving, more honest, noble, and good. The rich, though they know it not, are mostly our delegates, playing the part of the unconscionable bad "guy" so we can begin to feel ourselves more worthy after having selfishly partaken of so many riches we really hadn't the resources to afford.

Further, they are playing the part of the self-absorbed, their-children-ignoring parent, who must ultimately not be dethroned lest the child impinge on her/himself the psychologically untenable realization that their parents, not ultimately somehow themselves ("I must have been disobedient," the child concludes, after his father demonically beats him with a belt; "I must have been noisy," the child concludes, after his mother left his father.), were responsible for their ill-treatment. It's psychologically untenable, because this realization puts you beyond ever proving yourself now finally worthy of receiving their love.

The rich have their part to play in this completely unnecessary depression, and though we're going to hear just as much or more about the noble American suffering their way on through, they mostly won't be touched. Our narrative, our immature emotional needs, demand it.

Link: “Let them eat cake!”: the summer edition (Salon)


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