“Let ‘Em Drink Dirt!”

Let 'em drink dirt!

Source: oshpd.ca.gov

If you want to know why there’s so much open hostility to our nation’s one percenters these days (except for our benevolent patron St. Nick, of course!) you need read no further than this piece in the Washington Post: “Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water.’

I’m not often at a loss for snarky words, but I’m actually struggling to adequately poke fun at people who do such a great job of parodying their own unselfconscious awfulness. For example, this:

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

And this:

“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

And then, there’s this:

“I call it the war on suburbia,” said Brett Barbre, who lives in the Orange County community of Yorba Linda, another exceptionally wealthy Zip code. … He is fond of referring to his watering hose with Charlton Heston’s famous quote about guns: “They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

Um, well, okay. When the pitchforks come, I’m sure that could be arranged. Because this is the sort of arrogance that fuels revolution.

The truth is, most Americans don’t begrudge the wealthy their private yachts and their fancy cars and their stupidly-big houses. We don’t trudge through the first class cabin on the way to our cramped seats in coach defiantly humming “The Internationale” under our breath. In fact, most Americans probably fantasize about living an extravagant lifestyle, even if they don’t exactly aspire to it.

But we’re talking about water, in the state that grows nearly half our nation’s produce. And you’re telling us that during a statewide drought emergency, your lawn is more important than our food? Really?

I mean, cheat on the drought restrictions if you have absolutely no civic pride, and pay the fines if you can afford to. I guess it’s your right as an American to be an arrogant selfish prick. But don’t be surprised if, lacking adequate access to water, the unwashed masses ultimately refresh the tree of liberty with the only thing more precious.

A Gated City on a Hill

Gated house

Simon Howden | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite living in an era of record low crime rates, America’s uber-rich are feeling less and less secure—at least as evidenced by New York City’s burgeoning “safe room” industry:

The world is a very scary place right now, especially for people of means; they feel cornered and threatened,” said Tom Gaffney, the president of Gaffco Ballistics, which has installed a number of safe rooms around New York City.

“When you have so much to lose, and you can afford to, you put a premium on your safety.”

So, couple of thoughts. First, cry me a goddamn river. The world can surely be a “very scary place” right now for the children of the desperately poor. The world can be a very scary place right now for undocumented immigrants. The world can be a very scary place right now for the chronically underemployed and for families facing foreclosure. And if there’s anybody who has a right to “feel cornered and threatened” in America today, it’s young black men just about every time they’re confronted by the police. But people of means, not so much. Far from a scary place, New York City is like a Disneyland for the super rich—with unlimited Fastpasses. So forgive me if I roll my eyes at this zillionaire-as-victim meme.

That said, if people of means really do feel so cornered and threatened by the unwashed rabble these days that they’re willing to cower behind Kevlar-lined, steel-reinforced concrete walls, they might want to ask themselves, “Why?” If the threat is real, they should consider how our nation’s staggering income inequality is undermining their own security. And if the threat isn’t real, they should look deep inside themselves to question whether their paranoia stems from pathological narcissism or a healthy (and justified) pang of guilt?

Also, they might want to ask themselves, “Do I really want to live this way?”

As Civic Ventures Skunk-in-Chief Nick Hanauer has repeatedly warned his fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming. I suppose hunkering down in their gated communities—prisoners of their own wealth—is one way to prepare for it. Or, acting out of rational self-interest, they could start using their enormous influence and wealth to promote policies that address income inequality before the inevitable backlash occurs.