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Currently there is an immensely successful book creating a phenomena across the nation called "50 Shades of Gray" that literally, not metaphorically fetishes wealth. In it a young woman gives herself over to the Sadomasochistic fantasies of a wealthy millionaire in return for his largesse and attention. This is not merely a passing cultural phenomena, it as an expression of the continuing American zeitgeist which is playing itself out in Presidential politics.

There has always been a voyeuristic obsession in American culture with the habits and idiosyncrasies of the very rich. One need only look at the eighties when "Dynasty" and "Dallas" ruled the Nielson ratings. Nowadays, we watch Kardashians and various Real Housewives with the same levels of projection and disapproval. We simultaneously see ourselves in their shoes while dwelling on the comfort that we would somehow behave differently. We need look no further than Donald Trump, a man whose continued celebrity and political aspirations result from nothing other than his mostly inherited wealth and his arrogance, whose only coherent political statement is "birtherism". But this obsession has entered a new phase wherein we do not merely obsess about the behavior of the very rich, we elect them to high office. Both FDR and JFK came from wealth but enacted policies that benefitted the poor.  We have entered a new era. We need look no further than the gubenatorial elections of Snider in Michigan and Scott in Florida to see there is a new emphasis on wealth being the de facto qualification for governess. There is a creeping sense that in amassing tremendous wealth is a distinguishing quality that entitles an individual to higher office.

I would call this the "Sugar Daddy Phenomena" in which wealth is equated with wisdom. As long as we do not displease the said individual, he will perhaps share his largesse as does the title character in "50 Shades of Gray". This is not metaphorical. It is a political creed. When multimillionaire Mitt Romney is criticized for the practices that allowed him to accumulate his massive wealth, the cry is "envy". Those who criticize are simply whining about the fairness of capitalism when they are too inadequate or lacking in ingenuity to accumulate similar amounts of wealth. Nevermind the fact that his business career is held as the prevailing reason for voting for him. The implicit argument is that we are somehow inferior and in spite of huge policy disagreements, we should embrace him because of his success. What is the remedy for this in the Citizens United era where millionaires enjoy an unprecedented level of influence? Well, the first step is to understand the otherness of these individuals. While many of us would love to have the problems of the rich, would we really like to be Sheldon Aldeson or Foster Friess? These are some very odd individuals. Even using the "have a beer with them" criteria that has become such a litmus test in presidential contests, in this case forget about it. Romney doesn't drink. In fact he would not even share a cup of coffee with you. That is not in itself a discrediting distinction. But one has to ask oneself, if I had all that money would I never want to have a sip of alcohol or coffee? What is perhaps more relevant is the fact that the job of these millionaires and billionaires is to maintain and preserve their wealth. What we need to educate the mass of American people is that they have no such wealth. Rather those wealthy mens' wealth would be preserved at the expense of the very programs and services that most of us need to survive. It is all well and good to fantasize about having unlimited resources. What we have to realize is that we are not those people. All we can ask for is a chance to make ends meet and be given the opportunity to ever so gradually improve our lot, and maybe watch those people on tv.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Some say that I don't even listen to the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Saint Jimmy, JKTownsend, bunsk

    arguments of working class Republicans. They're right. That's because I believe that all of their arguments are rationalizations for their innate behavior. Bowing to the rich and powerful like dogs rolling on their backs. I don't blame them, but I worry that it will lead to the failure of democracy.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:34:12 AM PDT

  •  I think television's greatest sin... (7+ / 0-)

    has always been giving people the impression that everyone is wealthy and successful -- except for you, loser viewer.

    Sure, there are the obvious wealth-fetishisizing shows such as "Dynasty" and "Dallas," but it's more insidious than those clear examples.

    Think about the show "Family Ties." Dad worked in public television, Mom didn't work (although, if I remember right, she was an architect who occasionally did freelance work), they had three (eventually four) kids, two of whom were in college, and yet, somehow, they lived in a home bigger than mine.

    That doesn't make sense.

    Now, I realize that television has physical limitations. The characters on "Friends" lived in apartments that in reality would cost many thousands a month, well beyond the reach of their paychecks.

    But it would have been physically impossible to have filmed a big-budgeted sitcom inside a box of matches.

    Very rarely -- "Roseanne" comes to mind -- does television depict life the way it is for most folks.

    Now, granted, television sitcoms and dramas have no responsibility to be reality-based, but it has long bothered me that people's perceptions of success and happiness have no doubt been skewed by that sleek, 42-inch HD noise machine.

    How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

    by BenderRodriguez on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:53:38 AM PDT

    •  I marvel about the wealth of the supposedly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "middle class" families portrayed on TV shows for youngsters. Having two tween daughters, I'm exposed to a fair amount of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon productions. Here we have perfect nuclear families, whose male breadwinner is an bug exterminator, or deli owner, but who live in virtual McMansions in upscale neighborhoods, while the female partner is a homemaker with lots of time on her hands. Or one parent is missing, and the other parent doesn't have an obvious source of income (except perhaps as a cabaret singer!) living in luxury accommodations, a hotel or cruise ship. Or better yet, an older brother and his sister in a 2,500 square foot or larger apartment, no parents living with them, with all the food, electronic gadgets and latest fashions available ... from what source? I could go on, but I'm belaboring my point, which is the unrealistic expectations that TV creates and shapes a youngster's worldview. My daughters are limited to weekend viewing but I still wonder about the messages they receive.

      Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me, "how good, how good does it feel to be free? " And I answer them most mysteriously, "are birds free from the chains of the skyway? " (Bob Dylan)

      by JKTownsend on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 08:19:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Married With Children (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Al Bundy was a loser shoe salesman who lived in a supposedly crappy house:

      Houses on that real life street are selling from 300k to 500k. But he's poor.

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 08:42:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How long will it be (5+ / 0-)

    before we begin hearing the RW media start thanking the wealthy for their service at the start of every interview?

    "You're a dedicated swallower of fascism." Billy Bragg

    by Heianshoka on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:04:46 AM PDT

  •  Horatio Algerism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Saint Jimmy, JKTownsend

    has been extremely damaging to this country.  Many working class people - all of us who need a wage to live - are constantly identifying with the ruling class, clinging to the notion that they, too, will eventually become ruling class and voting consistently against their own interests as a result.

    by KibbutzAmiad on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:16:42 AM PDT

  •  Wait.. someone rewrote "The Story of O"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, chipmo

    You can call it "class warfare" -- we call it "common sense"

    by kenlac on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:44:57 AM PDT

  •  I've ALWAYS thought that television and movies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BenderRodriguez, DRo, JKTownsend, chipmo

    have a much greater impact on people and the general culture than most.  Every time I've pointed this out, from about the 1980s forward, the reaction I've almost always gotten is "Oh, lighten up!  It's only a movie or tv show".  LOL.  It's very frustrating but, now at 54 years old, I can't prove I'm right but, in hindsight, I KNOW I've been right all these years.  I see the affects over time.  Unfortunately, people are less well educated now and TV and movies are, I think, having an even BIGGER affect than they did 30 years ago.

    The real power in America is held by a fast-emerging new Oligarchy of pimps and preachers who see no need for Democracy or fairness or even trees, except maybe the ones in their own yards, and they don't mind admitting it. ~ Hunter S. Thompson

    by Saint Jimmy on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 05:14:52 AM PDT

  •  I think most people want to be millionaires, but (0+ / 0-)

    not because they believe these people are better than they are, just because they think they have a better life because of their wealth. Lottery sales are up and the casino business is thriving. Let's face it T.V. doesn't have to sell people on the fact that life with lots of money is better than life without lots of money.

  •  Not a new phenomenon (0+ / 0-)

    "New emphasis on wealth being the de facto qualification for governess. There is a creeping sense that in amassing tremendous wealth is a distinguishing quality that entitles an individual to higher office."  

    I don't think this is a creeping sense or a new emphasis at all.  Look at the demography of the Framers...we have ALWAYS been a country ruled by the very wealthy.  Name one President who wasn't very wealthy...

    •  The difference is the manner in which (0+ / 0-)

      the psychologically anaesthetizing medium of television and television programming exacerbates this and causes the message to attach directly to our subconscious minds.

      It's not an accident.  Research Edward Bernays and the entire PR industry to understand more.

      Obama 2012: For More Wars!

      by chipmo on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:10:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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