Eat the rich!

Here is an ad I found this morning on the train to New York City.  (Apologies for the fuzziness.  Our train goes side to side quite a lot.) 

The ad is for a Bucherer watch, and it shows a man with his daughter perched on the edge of a pool.  The emendation tells us that this man cares more for his watch than he does for his daughter.

My first indication that the 80s trend had broken was a poster for a Tom Cruise movie on which someone had scrawled: “Die Yuppie Scum.”  It was a useful indicator, a little early warning. 

Our emendator was not done.  The logo of Bucherer is, apparently, “for people who do not go with the times.”  The last 6 words are crossed out and “don’t care about their kids” is added. 

There is evidence of hostility these days…against the hedge fund managers, banking executives, those who ran the likes of AIG, and guys like Bernie Madoff.  This ad suggests that the wealthy are vain, self centered, irresponsible.  Conspicuous consumption is now doubly conspicuous. 

The anthropological questions: could this hostility scale up into a more substantial class hostility?  Will it be used by individuals to mandate their own departures from existing consumption patterns?  Can something like shame be used by some people to comment on and constrain the behavior of others?  Will this work? 

8 thoughts on “Eat the rich!”

  1. The Guillotine seems perfectly reasonable for a class of people who have no intention of returning that which doesn’t belong to them. You may recall I commented about this long before it was considered polite on your blog.

    http://tinyurl.com/b9v6ru

    It’s not about revenge. It’s about decontamination.

  2. There’s all sorts of conspicuous consumption patterns that could be made non-viable if it became normal amongst even a minority to actively challenge them. Ostentatiously expensive cars could be keyed whenever parked in a public place, it is trivial to destroy expensive clothes worn on public transport with a 5 cent stick of gum, in some British teenage subcultures theft of mobile phones from ostensibly affluent owners has been referred to colloquially as “taxing” for a while already.

  3. I loathe this type of self-rigtheous envy and mob justice. It makes me fantasize about buying luxuries I normally wouldn’t just to push into the faces of the haters. Car-keyers and suit-gummers ought to be caned by Singaporean experts.

    BTW, a couple of weeks ago I saw an ad from one of the private jet companies in the Wall Street Journal that was pretty much a defiant “stomp your timid competitors by saving your executives’ time while they’re sitting around in airport terminals.”

  4. The juxtaposition of graffiti and advertising is always rich in meaning. In the case of the wealthy poster-dad, it is the self-satisfied better-family-guy-than-you message (“sees his daughter every day”) that makes any self-respecting working stiff want to punch him in the nose! Imagine having to be filthy rich to have time to lavish on your children! Well, this is America. Of course, you do have to be rich to have everything that’s promised in our pursuit of happiness. Duh. So who do you suppose wrote the graffiti? I’m guessing a hard-working guy with a family. Or, a woman? Would a hard-working woman have written it? On the train, late, after a tiring, futile day in the office? Maybe Tootsie? I mean, there is plenty of well-founded hatred in that movie, isn’t there? And I am just fascinated by the comments this generated. Pretty nasty. Interesting stuff going on. Thanks, Grant, for your sharp eye out there. Class hostility in America has always been right there just below the surface (which is just another way of saying unnoticed.) Oh yeah, take a look back in history. Skip Marx and check out the Gracchi brothers in 133 BCE in Rome, a city filled with meaningful graffiti! Class hostility, justifiably enraged by consumption on display, has figured in societies and histories from the get go.

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