No one ever enjoys having memes belched in their face, but Lord above please toss me into the Lake of Fire if it didn’t happen to me twice last week. It was the same prepackaged, bundled, bar-coded, and bubble-wrapped meme, too—twice in two days.
As if my antagonists were acting on command from a remote-control device, both times I was reflexively accused of being the blind, brainwashed, servile defender of “corporations” and “the rich.” One of them told me I was a “stooge.” The other used the word “toady.”
What’s odd is that I don’t remember saying a word in defense of corporations or the rich, but I suppose we can’t rule out amnesia or even Alzheimer’s. I had mentioned that I distrust the government, but one would have to hop across several lily pads of false inference on their way out to Straw Man Island to conclude that I had said anything whatsoever about corporations or the rich, whether positive or negative.
I was also charged with being a blind acolyte of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Ayn Rand, a denunciation which might have a dash more substance if I’d ever watched O’Reilly’s TV program or listened to Limbaugh’s radio show or read a word of Ayn Rand.
One of these fellas was in the midst of a two-month international vacation in at least eight cities and three continents, which, in the interest of full disclosure, is probably beyond the financial reach of 99.9% of the planet’s inhabitants. Such a project has certainly never been remotely within my means, although it might have been if I’d made different choices in my life.
Still, it was as if he was at his first punk-rock concert, and he had a sadistic glint in his eye as he theoretically spoke of sticking a long knife into the belly of “the rich”—whom he defined as anyone who has more than $50 million in assets and which I’ll presume is more than his net worth. He said that accumulating such an exorbitant fortune was “unfair” and that no one ever needed that much money.
Since he raised the topic of fairness—to be completely fair, no one really ever needs to go on two-month international vacations, either. To be fair, no one needs much more than food, water, and shelter. Anything else is a luxury and, to be fair, it might be considered bad tennis to kvetch.
He insisted that the assets of those far richer than him should be confiscated and redistributed to the lower orders, which I assume included him. As passive-aggressively as I could manage, I noted that compared to an African peasant, he was insanely—perhaps unforgivably—rich. I asked if he’d be willing to redistribute most of his relative personal wealth to underprivileged African peasants. He made a sourpussed face at the mere suggestion.
Such is the root problem with the eternal global human centipede of envy. “Justice” and “fairness” are not quantifiable terms—they are malleable concepts derived almost entirely from where one perceives oneself to stand in the pecking order. In his case, the fact that there were people wealthier than him was a gross injustice. But the fact that there were people far poorer than him? Let them eat dung beetles.
Amid the left’s endless contradictions and countless acts of guilt-projection is the idea that “hatred” is the basest of human emotions—unless you’re aiming it at their designated bêtes noires. Therefore, they’re able to dehumanize “white males,” the “religious right,” and “the rich” with the grossest caricatures yet still somehow manage to sleep at night. It’s a miraculous belief system—you can call for your enemies’ throats to be slit, or even for them to be lynched in front of a torchbearing mob—and somehow feel righteous about it all.
So tally ho and sally forth, brave class warrior! Forge into battle by resurrecting cheesy, century-old cartoons of evil capitalist robber barons flicking cigar ashes on Uncle Sam and evil giant capitalist starfish sucking lifeblood from “the people.” There’s nothing cliché or oversimplified about any of that.
Unless it’s for laughs, I’m not especially turned-on by any group’s infantile demonization of any other group. I might talk about how one group seems dumber, less logical, more annoying, uglier, or smellier than another group, but you’ll never hear me using that mystically retarded and emotionally arrested word “evil.”
By the way, have you seen “the people” lately? Is there really much worth celebrating there? The main problem with a classless society would be its utter lack of class.
And I am no emotional stranger to class envy. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a book largely motivated by it. I still believe working-class whites are routinely scapegoated for deeds they had no power to commit, then or now. I still believe that one’s economic class partially dictates one’s options and shapes the way one ends up viewing the world.
And I still believe, just like any twelve-year-old does, that life is often tragically unfair. Some people probably “deserve” to be richer and some poorer, but how might one propose unraveling that tangled ball of squirming sea worms?
But I’ve also come to believe that at least some forms of “wealth inequality” are due to the, well, unfair fact that humans are themselves unequal. Some people pretend as if every great fortune is nothing more than random good fortune—i.e., luck. Er, good luck with that theory. Or there’s the presumption that behind every great fortune—not some, but every—is nothing more than theft, greed, and remorselessly pulsating, writhing, Medusa snakes of evil. But you can’t explain it all away with a dumb magic-wand incantation such as “evil.” That’s really not…fair.
I think it’s fair to say that envy is not the sanest or most durable plywood upon which to build one’s entire political and philosophical platform. Fighting greed with greed just turns the whole world into pigs. So a little less oinking and a little more working, please. And kindly have the manners to never mewl about “the rich” when you are around people who are obviously poorer than you are. It’s not classy at all.
What’s most insulting about being rubber-stamped with this “you’re only apologizing for the rich” charge is the assumption that I have ever claimed to be anything more than an agnostic regarding economic matters. At most, I know that economics are somewhat bound by mathematics, but they’re also inextricably chained to human nature. But I have yet to pore over the Laffer curve and the Gini coefficient to any appreciable degree. One day I’ll use my slide rule and abacus and try to reach immutable conclusions about economics. But for now, I remain an econotard.
For the love of Pete—and to be fair, I don’t know who “Pete” is—all I’d said was that I distrust the government, especially their practice of making me significantly less rich by seizing money from me and spending it on things I never chose to buy. In my little world, that seems more than a little unfair.
In the end, I got one of my verbal sparring partners—the “toady” one, not the “stooge” one—to acknowledge that neither of us had the world-class economic expertise to say with certitude what sort of financial system would not only be most desirable, but most workable. Fact is, we simply weren’t well-versed enough in the topic to reach any firm conclusions.
On that we shook hands, which seemed fair.
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