Sunday, July 18, 2010

Filthy Rich as A Dangerous Pathology [Anthony McCarthy]

Note: For some reason I can't get a link from this computer. You can find the article mentioned in the Magazine section of today's Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe Magazine has an article this morning about the continuing McMansion disease that is such a blight on so many suburban and rural landscapes. These awful places, vulgar, irrationally designed, profligate in their consumption of materials and utilities and maintenance schedules, sometimes lived in by only a few people, are more than just esthetically dreadful, they are a red flag of something much worse. They show a pathological condition that isn't confined to any neighborhood unfortunate enough to have one put there. Apparently the recession hasn't finally stopped this craziness. The rich, apparently, we always have to put up with.

Considering the horrible effect the super rich, and those who aspire to become super rich, have no us, on the world and the environment, shouldn't their obsession with accumulating too much money and property be looked on as a dangerous mental illness? You are supposed to look on someone who has dozens of cats or whose house is chuck full of dusty salt and pepper sets or movie magazines as nuts but someone who has more money than hundreds or thousands of people would use in a long and relatively affluent lives, people who are embarked on a bloody and sociopathically indifferent quest to add to their enormous hoard is considered heroic. Which obsession has more inherent danger to other people and the biosphere?

Instead of looking on these people as being role models to be copied, they should be seen as the dangerous people they are. Dangerous as in, yes, they and those who aspire to be like them are the people who have caused things like the Gulf oil gusher, other environmental disasters, wars of conquest, genocidal despotisms, criminal neglect of horrible social problems and have had a hand in every major unaddressed political and environmental problem we have today. And, at the bottom of it, they do so to irrationally acquire more wealth than they or their known family members will ever use. If you doubt the corrupting influence of wealth accumulation, look at the judges who have overturned the drilling moratorium over the past few weeks as they hold stock in the very companies that would be inconvenienced.* Consider the political, legal and media cultures that accept that level of corrupt conflict of interest as a given instead of something to be forbidden and severely punished in those who so sordidly violate their public office.

It's been pointed out many times that you're far more likely to be robbed by a corporation than you are by some pathetic poor person, it would be surprising if you hadn't been already**, It's quite likely that most of the scary people you encounter are scary largely because of the greed of the mega-rich who drive the unemployment rates up, who make the cost of housing ruinously high, who thwart a living wage, healthcare, education, relief mental health services, hospitalization for the truly unable and a host of other blights on our society. They determine the regressive political and cultural atmosphere which has made the United States one of the most violent countries in the developed world. A growing number of people are beginning to realize that the foremost reason for the recession is the fact that the Reagan-Bush regimes have handed over huge amounts of wealth to the filthy rich and there just isn't enough to go around. It turns out that the old rising tide analogy in which the improvement of the lot of the poorest was supposed to leave the rich even better off is just so much flotsam and jetsam on the polluted waters. There aren't unlimited resources, there aren't going to be. The choice is between many people having a decent life and a small number of the criminally insane stealing and hoarding most of it. Our political, legal and cultural orthodoxy favors the insane, we have to change that.

* No country which doesn't hold judges and politicians to a very high standard of integrity will remain a democracy. The bars on conflict of interest in the United States are a fiction. They allow politicians and judges to use their official positions to enhance their wealth, and if not theirs, directly, their closest family members. Instituting real laws and rules on conflict of interest are another area of neglect created and fostered, of by and for the pathologically acquisitive.

** I haven't been brave enough to do the post on the actuarial magazine my state legislator sometimes gives to me. Someone, apparently, sends them to everyone on his legislative committee. The several I've read through are pretty disturbing.