Beaton: Class warfare, Aspen style: The merely rich versus the really rich
The Aspen beat
Class warfare has broken out in my town, Aspen.
“We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.” — Pogo
On one side are the people who are in the top 1 percent of wealth in the world, who’ve been dubbed the 1 percenters. “Ah, yes,” say the Aspenites, “take their money and shoot ’em”
Wait, hold your fire!
You see, the 1 percenters worldwide are people who make more than $34,000. The average income of people in Aspen is double that. Therefore, the average Aspenite is easily a 1 percenter.
So don’t declare war on them because, well, they are us. And the first rule of war is that we’re the good guys.
The bad guys are a subset of the 1 percenters — the ones who are not just in the top 1 percent but are in the top 0.1 percent.
If this were France, circa 1789, we’d say the bad guys are the “creme de la creme” and the good guys are the “creme sans la creme.”
In the fog of war, it’s easy to misplace a decimal point or a creme. For the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to the 1 percenters as the “merely rich” and to the 0.1 percent as the “really rich.”
“Cry havoc and let slip the Labradoodles of war.” — Shakespeare
Human nature being what it is, the merely rich are envious that the really rich can afford useless things that the poor (relatively speaking) merely rich cannot, such as exorbitant weddings, bathtubs on the roof and Labradoodles.
To assuage their envy, the merely rich have done what people do. They’ve convinced themselves that they are victims of those whom they envy. And so they’ve declared war on the really rich.
“War is hell.” — William Tecumseh Sherman
Today’s particular battlefield is the noise ordinance. One of the really rich provoked the ire of the merely rich by, first, paying someone an outlandish sum of money for a downtown condo and, second, seeking peace and quiet in that condo by asking that the noise ordinance be enforced.
How dare they! The merely rich (at least the ones who did not share in the proceeds of that condo sale) fought back.
Leading the charge was the mayor. He instructed the merely rich to “crank it up” by making noise downtown (where, conveniently, he does not live) for the purpose of annoying the really rich.
Hurrah — what a war hero!
At a City Council meeting, a lady who does live downtown said she’s a struggling (relatively speaking again) merely rich person. She favors annoying the really rich, she explained, since she envies them, too, but the cranked-up noise annoys her, as well. In short, she’s collateral damage in this war between the merely rich and the really rich.
Well, lady, war is hell.
“An eye for an eye makes us all blind.” — Mahatma Gandhi
OK, since we’ve been instructed to “crank it up,” I’ll launch a few verbal volleys of my own in this war of the decimal points.
First, notice that the people who say money can’t buy happiness are typically the same people who seek happiness by taking it away from those who have more. They apparently think happiness can’t be bought with money earned but can with money taken.
If they would work half as hard to earn it as they do to take it, they would already have it.
Second, the really rich in the top 0.1 percent are not very different from the merely rich in the top 1 percent. (In fact, some of the really rich in the top 0.1 percent live in Aspen’s notorious taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing, since the $184,000 cutoff for that is well into worldwide top 0.1 percent territory.)
The really rich have parents who get old, children who get acne and pets that die. They work hard (very, typically), like their peace and quiet, give lots of money to charity and don’t like being vilified.
At some point the really rich people will just walk away. (They do have alternatives, you know.) Before you shout, “Good riddance!” keep in mind that they take their money with them on that walk.
Third, imagine what a person in Haiti might think of this class war.
Finally, when the so-called leader of a town that prides itself on tolerance and intellectualism legitimizes the hateful dehumanizing of the visitors who bring the most money to town to support the primary industry of the town, on the grounds that they’re in the top 0.1 percent rather than just the top 1 percent like the rest of the town, is that right? Is it constructive? Is it smart?
This isn’t “Animal House,” and we’re not 19. Enough of the adolescent exhortations like “Crank it up.” What’s next from the City Council — panty raids and food fights? Guillotines and pogroms?
Let’s be grown-ups. Turn down the stereo — and the rhetoric.
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