I said to a friend last night that the first thing I would do when I became rich would be to hire someone to walk around with me and write down every word I uttered and then ritually burn every page as soon as it was filled. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t do that if I were actually rich. You wouldn’t do it either but you get why it should be done. Now, I could intellectualize about how it’s all about male dominance rituals and signaling relative status but the truth is that if you don’t understand this on a gut level, you might as well move on, the rest of this post is going to be nonsense to you.
In ancient times, it was practically expected that the emperor would have a harem. After all, what was the point of power if not the ability to impregnate many fertile women? And yet, just 10 years ago, the most powerful person in the world almost got impeached for engaging in an act of non-procreative sex with a not particularly attractive woman. The power of life and death over slaves got morphed into the power of hiring and firing of servants which morphed into the worry that perhaps the domestic assistants wouldn’t be fully self actualized if you weren’t on a first name basis with them. Even the glutton is gone; as recently as 1917, you had the likes of Diamond Jim Brady who represents himself admirably in the gallery of great historical gluttons but who today could fill his generously sized shoes? The conspicuous consumption that remains today has sublimated into a form of simpering conformity that’s oh-so-dull to watch. Houses, Private Jets, Watches, Art & Wives… yawn (or, if you’re black or secretly want to be black: Cribs, Bitches, Bling & Cred). None if this inspires the poor to feel the visceral self-loathing of inadequacy nearly half as well as the obnoxiously creative rich of the past. Where did the panache and the admirable fuck you attitude go?
Understanding the no obnoxious rich people paradox may be the key to also understanding the no evil geniuses paradox. In both cases, the paradox is that it’s so easy to imagine these people existing that it’s difficult to imagine them not existing. Why, the only difference standing between you and an obnoxious rich person (apart from the money, duh) is your innate goodness and lord knows innate goodness is in short supply. So where did all the obnoxious rich people go?
Here’s my new stab towards an answer: Wealth used to represent a certain kind of freedom that it doesn’t now. A rich person today can usually get around most of the controls put there by society but a rich person in the past could also get around all the controls that we put on ourselves. In short, wealth allowed for one to enable the purest expression of the id. The reason why you can even imagine the obnoxious rich person is because, deep down, your id is kind of a douchebag. If you were a rich person in the past, you would have not only the desire but also the permission to act on your douchebag impulse. Fortunately, modern society has been set up so that even if you are rich, you’re not allowed to express your douchebag id in an unadulterated form. Instead, rich douchebaggery is channeled safely into much more innocuous channels such as fraternities which encourage conformity, not experimentation.
In short, the proles have won the invisible war that neither side was even aware they were fighting. It might have been possible, a long time ago to imagine an organized conspiracy by the powerful but today, it properly belongs only as a paranoid fantasy used by those who don’t want to take responsibility for their own failings. We, as a society, have managed to turn the rich from a bunch of hard nosed bastards into a set of navel gazing neurotics, largely harmless to everyone, except in their clumsiness.