Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech and the references to rich kids

The media reported that the shooter's "manifesto" expressed quite a bit of hate for what he termed "rich kids". The entire document has not been released, so I don't have first hand quotes. I have this excerpt from CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/):

' "You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything," MSNBC.com quoted Cho as saying.'

I've also heard, primarily from the right-wing talkers, the term "class warfare", usually when the issue of tax reform is raised by those on the left.

I will say this: recently the rich certainly have made it pretty easy for the "have-not as much" class to feel contempt for them. Have you watched any of the reality TV shows about the rich, idle class? I'm talking about shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County, Sons of Hollywood, or The Simple Life (Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie). The display of greed, shallowness, and self-centeredness is sickening. Flaunting one's wealth used to be thought of as tacky - no more. It is easy for those of us who work, even those who work and do well, to see these people as parasites.

It is said that the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is growing, both in dollar terms and in raw numbers. The middle class is supposedly shrinking. I can't claim to have observed this. It seems to me, as I drive around the area, that most people are doing pretty well. However, if the statistics are indeed true this is not good for either the rich or those of us in the middle who appear rich to the down and out. It will lead to trouble down the road.

A big part of the problem isn't only that some people are rich and others are not. I think that most Americans do not "hate" the rich. In fact, most of us would like to become rich. But, Americans have a sense of fair play. It is part of our upbringing. We grew up expecting to play sports with competent referees. We even have rules of fair play when we fight our wars. There are rules and, thankfully, most of us abide by them.

It certainly appears that the rich have a different set of rules. For example, the CEO class, because they sit on each other's corporate boards, votes each other raises. When the CEO class gets fired they leave with huge payouts, even when they are fired for poor performance. I think Americans feel the playing field for the various classes has changed too much. The rich have always had a different set of rules due to their superior access to those in power. It has gotten out of hand though.

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