Paul E. Anna: High Points
November 25, 2011
It’s good to be one of the 1 percent.
If that sounds condescending, conceited and self-aggrandizing, you are 99 percent right. But consider: if you are reading this then you are likely in Aspen, Colorado, on a free Friday with a stomach still full from your Thanksgiving repast. The odds are that you are also a Caucasian American, born in the second half of the 20th century, have a college education, a pocket full of cash, credit on your cards, and your biggest daily dilemmas are choosing what skis you should take out on the scratchy slopes and deciding where are you going to have lunch.
In short, on this day after Thanksgiving, a day on which you hopefully paused to express some gratitude to whoever your personal God may be, you are amongst the top tier of the luckiest people to ever walk the face of the earth. There are likely 6.9 billion people who would welcome the opportunity to be in the very chair in which you are sitting this morning, reading this article. (OK, so maybe the option of reading High Points doesn’t resonate, but surely you get my drift.)
There is a misconception among many members of the 1 percent that the rest of the world hates them because they have been successful. That feeling, and apologies if you are afflicted by it, could not be more, well, condescending conceited and self-aggrandizing. The 99 percent don’t hate the 1 percent because they are successful; they hate them because of what they do with that success.
Despite the fact that so many of us have been born with every advantage, two-parent homes, food on the table, the opportunity to go to good schools, the ability to get low interest loans and yes, the chance to learn how to ski, we still work all the angles to insure that we stay ahead of the pack. Or the other 99 percent.
Rather than being humble and accepting that, though we may have worked hard and smart to get to where we are in life, we did so because we were, in just about every case in this community, members of the lucky sperm club, many of us use our good fortune to either separate ourselves, or participate in a life of garish excess.
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I think of this daily as I pass the construction site on Snowmass Creek Road of a young billionaire who feels he is entitled to change the landscape of the neighborhood, and the very mountains themselves, because he can. Ironically the property, upon which he has moved more dirt this fall than the crews that lengthened the runway at the Aspen airport moved all summer, lies just up the road from the former home of Eagle Don Henley. Henley, a 1 percent-er if there ever was one, at least had the awareness to pen the song “The Last Resort.” You may remember the lyric:
“Some rich man came and raped the land, nobody caught ’em/ And they called it paradise, I don’t know why./Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high.”
Now this guy has the right do what he wants with his land. He paid for it. But the land lived a long time before he was here and it will live again long after he is gone. Why he feels a polo field is his gift to the world is the kind of question that the 99 percent may never have to consider. But that, along with gated communities and inside deals and lawyers who clean up all transgressions and all of these things that are the business of life for the 1 percent, are the reason the other 99 percent are upset.
It’s not the success. It’s the excess.
Anyway, we are lucky to be here this Friday after Thanksgiving. Let’s try to act like we deserve it.
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