…use this response of mine to an anonymous comment on a previous blog entry as today’s post since a) this blog is due for a post and b) I know exactly where that comment is coming from and is the kind of thing my much younger, much more self-righteous self might just as easily have declared. So in a way, this post is me talking to myself. (But then, the whole blog is more or less like that, so whatever.)
Also, it concerns something I do tend to think a lot about. There’s a line in Ethan Canin’s new book America, America about how every person who “jumps class” always carries two classes inside them: the one they were born into, and the one they live in now. It’s a sharp observation.
I’m not going to say what the comment actually was, since I think it’s evident enough from my answer. And whether or not the poster was a troll — there is a troll personality who actually does leap to mind — it’s certainly not a unique viewpoint. Hence:
….As someone who actually did grow up in smalltown lowerish-middle-class, one generation removed from tough mining-town poverty, etc. & went through the crappy jobs, money worries, student debt, etc. before ‘jumping class’, it astonishes me when people think that money — having it or not having it — is what defines ‘reality’, or ‘authenticity’, or even just how fucked-up you are (or aren’t).
In my life I’ve worked at Taco Bell and I’ve hung out at places like Villa and trust me when I say both places are ‘real’ — one difference being, many of the people you sometimes find at Villa (including those who can afford the $5000,00-minimum tables) have or will have the power to affect the everyday lives of the kind of people I grew up with in both dramatic and subtle ways, whether it’s the cultural messages being transmitted through entertainment or the paradigm-shifting innovations of technology (where do you think many of the dot.com success stories ended up? you think those still-young, now-rich thirtysomethings just stay in Palo Alto? you think they stay home on Saturday nights? you think they retired, are no longer forming new companies, or having new successes? and by the way, how do you think they’re going to be educating their kids, given the wealth they now have and the intellectual power of the genetics they’re passing on? you don’t think that will have any impact on your kids or the society your kids will grow up in?) or the political power they court and attempt to shape through wealth, influence & connections.
Also, there are ‘wolves’, narcissists, whatever you want to call them, all through society, but a few of the wolves in my extremely competitive world tend to be — in a way they tend not to be in smalltown Taco Bell environments — brilliant, relentlessly driven, and coming into positions, now, of increasing wealth and power, which in turn only reinforces and enlarges their sense that normal rules don’t apply to them, which means that their once-calculated risk-taking might become more and more reckless. You don’t think that’s ‘real’ or will have any kind of impact on what you do deem the ‘real world’? How do you think Enron happens, and who, as a group, do you think suffers most?
By implying that the world of power & privilege is small enough and decadent enough not to be ‘real’, people only enable it to stay more private, hidden, secret, which in turn ends up making them more susceptible to the illusions the wealthy classes foster in one way or another…I see, for example, how a celebrity mom like Kathy Ripa presents herself as Everywoman to some real everywoman like my own mother in a world far removed from Kathy’s. I’m the one who sees the total artifice and lie of it — it’s a woman like my mother who can not, does not, and compares & judges herself accordingly….it’s my mother who remarks on how she doesn’t know how Angelina does it with all those kids without any help, and I’m the one who can say, well, no, they actually have a nanny for each child, but when out in public the nannies aren’t allowed to carry the children so that the only photographs that exist are of Angelina being hands-on, which in turn shapes the public’s perception of her (…not that Angelina isn’t a good mom, just, the woman has a staff of nannies and tutors and whatnot, and it’s not like when they travel they’re wrestling the kids through a public airport and herding them into economy).
To make an analogy of sorts: the plastic surgery you notice, and scoff at, and feel superior to, is only the bad kind. Good plastic surgery passes itself off as natural beauty or being more ‘refreshed’ and is much more prevalent than you think. So it’s easy to mock and feel superior to the obviously ‘fake’ and ‘removed’ aspects of a milieu like the one in my blog — or to think that a show like ‘Real Housewives of Orange County/New York’ isn’t a show that gets mocked and laughed at by the very class it pretends to be about — but what you don’t see are all the ways — and there are so many ways — that this reality trickles down into yours.
But I do. And I can write about it.