I had a bizarre evening. I went to a party at the house of a colleague who, it turns out, is quite rich. I couldn’t help but see class in all the interactions of the evening, especially the hired staff in the background who cleared away plates and poured drinks. I had a great conversation with the doorman, who plays poker online for a living, and was doing this job to make ends meet while waiting to collect money held up in various online forums due to the US trying to illegalize online gambling.
Later, on the way home, I ran into a friend of a friend who is a solid middle-class blue-collar worker, doing carpentry in the homes of the rich. He pointed out that the rich are often miserable. We talked for a while about how the system is so fucked up that even those who are “benefiting” from it, those who succeed by its rules, are often unhappy. In other words, even many elements of the ruling class are so unhappy under our current social system that they are amenable to a discussion about how we could organize our lives differently.
We don’t envy the rich so much as we feel sorry for them. And we extend our hand to them, to join us in creating an entirely new world.
Update – 2011/05/16
I don’t mean to imply that all rich people (or the party host) are unhappy. But I do think there is a pattern where unhappy people who aren’t well-off can imagine that their unhappiness will be cured by money; if they succeed in becoming rich, and remain unhappy, they are at a loss for what the underlying problem could be. Even the “winners” in our society are often profoundly alienated.