March 12th, 2012 -- Even I Hate The 1% Sometimes
For all the bitching I do about how America has learned to demonize, envy, resent and even hate the successful, it’s time we point out the most nauseating quality of the top 1%, on display in all corners of our country.
It’s not greed, thievery, criminal behavior, or an heir of inheritance elitism, for none of those things are true. They are lies created to support a narrative that divides people in a nation that once revered and idolized the successful amongst us and said “I want to be like that person.” Today, after decades of class warfare we look at those who have more than us and say “son of a bitch, I have less because he has more.” It’s pathetic.
No, sad to tell you, the overwhelming majority of rich people in America did not steal their money, nor did they inherit it, nor did they “get rich on the backs of the poor.” Although those are all really cool ways of making less successful people feel better about themselves, they are almost universally provably false. Don’t mind me, I don’t mean to ruin your hate party with logic, facts and reason, so allow me to move on to another reason you can authentically hate the 1% even more than you already do.
There’s a slow drum beat that’s been building amongst too many of the most successful in this nation for too many years that now seems to be reaching a crescendo of whining unlike anything I’ve ever seen. What’s most surprising is that a legitimate reason to hate the rich is staring us all in the face, and yet we seem to be the ones encouraging and allowing the behavior.
Recently we discussed lottery winners on the show and the idiocy of taking dramatically reduced lump sum payments, as opposed to annual payments in the full amount of the prize you won. The math is not even remotely arguable (although I praise those of you so desperate to be right who made valiant efforts at justifying walking away from an average of 30% of your winnings), and when all was said and done, the main reason people justified taking a lump sum of $216 million, as opposed to the entire $336 million over twenty years was that the annual payments of $16.8 million would be “too much trouble.” (Apparently the rigors of having to hire someone to manage your money and file your taxes, is just too much for some of you who will never even sniff $1 million, let alone $336 million, to even bear).
I retorted (paraphrasing) that anyone who views unimaginable wealth as “trouble,” or a “nuisance,” doesn’t deserve the bounty in the first place, even if they earned it, quite candidly.
Yet I’ve grown to understand where this stupidity comes from. We’ve been allowing and encouraging whining about wealth, fame and success for decades now, and it’s leading to a boomerang effect. Essentially, we have an entire middle class of people who soothe themselves into believing that they don’t want to make a lot of money because, with money, comes to many hassles. Brilliant! If only I had thought of such delusion myself! In fact, I suppose I did. The only reason I got married, after all, was because having sex with a different stripper, supermodel, porn star, MILF, single mom, or hard bodied college girl every night was simply “too much of a hassle.” Additionally, I chose to stop lift weights because of what a pain it would be to so strong that everyone was always asking me to move things, and don’t get me started on why I chose not to be taller!
Only in this country could we turn the dream of almost everyone into the nightmare no one would want to live.
Glancing across the American landscape, you need only pivot your head one degree to find yet another one-percenter bitching about the trials and tribulations of living a life 99% of the world can only dream of. “Twilight” actress Kristen Stewart, a multi-multi-multi-millionaire who never has to work again thanks to falling ass-backwards into the biggest teen sensation of the century has given more than a dozen interviews in which she has said “nothing about fame is desirable,” and has opined about how “pathetic” people are for “obsessing” over her and “bothering” her when she goes out. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1625378/kristen-stewart-likens-fame-being-edward-cullen.jhtml
So here we have a woman who looks like she could be found in front of any methadone clinic in the nation, whose acting abilities will never be confused or compared with Charlize Theron, let alone Meryl Streep, and whose entire fortune is based upon the fanatic passion with which fans have embraced the movies she had almost no role in making successful (other than being in the right place at the right time), bitching about the very things that has made her independently wealthy. And what is our response? Almost universal sympathy and understanding. Blog after Twitter feed after Facebook post decries “poor Kristen,” and agrees that more understanding of how difficult it is to be a celebrity is required. And let’s not forget the easiest villain of all, the paparazzi, who of course only exist because of our obsession with celebrities, which is what makes them so rich and famous in the first place. Ooops, sorry, there I go being logical again.
Two weeks ago, Rory Mcilroy become the #1 ranked golfer in the world, and promptly followed it up with a less-than-impressive performance in the first two rounds of his very next golf tournament. And do you know why Rory didn’t play well last Thursday and Friday? Because he was under so much pressure to live up to his world #1 ranking. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=wojciechowski_gene&page=wojciechowski-120309&sportCat=golf
The poor dear. Now to be fair to Mcilroy, not only did he ultimately play well over the weekend, he didn’t explicitly say such things, but he also didn’t say what he should have on Friday, “there is absolutely nothing negative, daunting or remotely bad about being the #1 ranked golfer in the world, a distinction I worked hard for my entire life, and I reject any excuses that explain away my pitiful performance so far this week other than I sucked.”
No, Instead, it wasn’t just a couple of days in which Rory’s swing sucked, it was, according to fellow golfer, apologist journalists and ideological fans, the beginning of a process that could take months or years, in which he will have to learn to adjust to being rich, powerful, and famous. Apparently, the world is a rotten place when you hold it in the palm of your hand at the ripe old age of 22.
Of course not every successful person behaves this way, probably not even most. Love them or hate them, you never heard Donald Trump, Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods bitching about the rigors of fame or success. Tiger has never been the sterling example of someone who treats his fans with adoration, but he also doesn’t publicly demean their existence, and he has certainly never asked for sympathy as a result of being the best at what he does; nor did Clint Eastwood, Joe Montana, Jack Nicholson, Will Smith or Jack Nicklaus. They all said “give me the gig, give me the ball, put me in the limelight and ask me to work harder than everyone else, and I will prevail.”
Unfortunately, for every Will Smith there’s Harrison Ford and Jennifer Aniston, two other prominent celebrities who have made their hatred of fame well known. http://theblemish.com/2010/02/harrison-ford-hates-fame-but-loves-the-money/ http://www.boldsky.com/insync/2011/jennifer-aniston-hates-fame-110411-aid0083.html
I refer to this as the Lebron-ization of America. The most talented basketball player in the NBA today is Lebron James, yet when the game is on the line and a winning shot is needed, Lebron’s go-to move is to pass the ball to someone else and let them take the shot that matters. And why not? If you never take the shot, you never have to deal with the stinging rebuke of failure; or, put another way, the downside of his one-percentism. Lebron has all the money, fame and access he’ll ever need, and he’ll probably even get a championship ring someday thanks to doing just enough to put his more courageous teammates in position to win ballgames. We’ve all seen over the past year how much he hates to be criticized or judged, so why not avoid as much of it as possible by not putting himself in the spotlight and avoiding at all costs taking that last minute shot? Brilliant.
Despite constantly being criticized for over-thinking, maybe this is all deeper than even I am making it. Maybe this is a commentary on America’s cowardice as much as it is our avarice and entitlement. No matter, it’s sickening on all levels.
And sadly, as a final note I must make this personal, for too many people are too stupid to understand things that are not overtly spelled out. For those who are already pounding away at their keyboards asinine emails about how “RAD bitches about their fans,” save your fingertips and enroll yourself in a remedial class on common sense. Arnie and I have made clear for years that we are illustrating the absurd by being absurd; it’s called social satire, and oh by the way, it’s hilarious the way we do it. But when it comes to how we actually feel about and treat our fans, the people who make our lives professional lives possible, there has never been a doubt. If you find one person who has ever approached me in public and asked for my time or chatted with me about our show, or simply said they love what we do who also claims I didn’t stop and drop everything to engage them for as long as I could, I will show you a lying sack of monkey crap.