In contrast, the people I spoke with expressed a deep ambivalence about identifying as affluent.
Those who want to show off how rich they are are not that rich. The truly rich keep quiet. You can see it very clearly in the tourists. One particularly egregious example of this was about the Russian New Rich in the 90s: the purple jackets* who wore big gold chains on their necks and gold rings on their fingers.
* or, more exactly, "raspberry jackets", the adjective doubling as the Russian term for being rich and/or catered to
And judging wealthy people on the basis of their individual behaviors <...> distracts us from other kinds of questions about the morality of vastly unequal distributions of wealth.
Whenever I hear about a problem persisting in society, my immediate reaction is to ask: what can we do to change that? Then I try to come up with solutions, so as to not sound like I'm putting the responsbility for the solution solely onto others. Mine are not necessarily good examples -- I am, after all, no economist -- but I feel like trying to find something is better than not trying at all. Implementation will come if the solution is good enough, mine or someone else's.
(I write something much bigger in place of this entry. I stopped after realizing that my expertise is not nearly enough to, basically, solve the economy. I only came up with as much as the fact that people are to be paid differently, because complete equality of income would likely lead to stagnation. I've also outlined several rules for increasing the pay for a job: more labor-intensive jobs get higher payment, more dangerous jobs get higher payment, and as long as bosses and managers provide the experience to make the workplace more effective, they should be paid more. I stopped at figuring out what exactly does it mean for jobs such as nanny or house cleaner)
His wife, whom I interviewed separately, was so uneasy with the fact that they lived in a penthouse that she had asked the post office to change their mailing address so that it would include the floor number instead of “PH,” a term she found “elite and snobby.”
And yet, they continue to live in a penthouse. She's not uneasy with living in one: she's uneasy about people knowing that she does -- as if she's pointing it out with every mail delivery -- and them looking down on her for that.
I've never been rich. My parents have always had enough money, and they often went out of their way to prove themselves to be "not poor", as my mother would call it. They were also the ones to look down upon the rich and the famous. I've learned from them not to do so.
Still, I can't but wonder. If you're okay with buying $6 bread but not okay with showing that you do, does it show your humbleness in the face of affluence -- or does it show shame, the public counterpart to guilt, of being affluent?
When I used the word “affluent” in an email to a stay-at-home mom with a $2.5 million household income, a house in the Hamptons and a child in private school, she almost canceled the interview, she told me later. Real affluence, she said, belonged to her friends who traveled on a private plane.
This doesn't say "humbleness" to me. It says "I still don't have enough, despite outranking, like, 97% of the world, and I'm willing to unwittingly belittle this percentage by saying that my wealth is nothing". "unwittingly" here because I suspect that she doesn't even think of the rest of the people. Like people calling trans people "traps", she simply doesn't consider the possibility that she might be doing something wrong.
[The wealthy] class has diversified, thanks largely to the opening of elite education to people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds starting after World War II
Say what you want, but 20% of the richest being non-white seems to me as something to be celebrated. It's not about blaming other ethnic groups in addition to whites: it's about wealth being now available to others, as well. 20% is far better than 0%.
With every such judgment, we reproduce a system in which being astronomically wealthy is acceptable as long as wealthy people are morally good.
CMV: being "astronomically wealthy" is not, in itself, a bad thing. If you worked hard to deserve it and didn't cheat anyone out of their money to get where you are, you don't deserve to be looked down upon simply because you're very rich. A society can exist where very rich can exist that simultaniously has a high income floor.