The new millennium has also given us a new American profile — the hip richeral. Richerals are, of course, well off. But they are even more cool and liberal. The two facts are not so much incompatible, as complementary.
For some, big money allows three things: wealth’s cocoon enables you to dream safely about utopia rather than being laid off and broke; it exempts you from worrying much about the high taxes and regulations needed to pay for your redistributionist fantasy agendas; and it gives you the influence, capital, and opportunities to flee from the messy ramifications of your own ideology.
The other side of being liberal is just as important for the richerals. Guilt is a primordial human emotion — usually in civilization’s history assuaged by religion and the accompanying fear of damnation in the hereafter. But richerals are more likely than average to be either agnostic or atheistic. Yet that fact does not mean that they feel any less guilty about unfairness and inequality. So they do have deities of sorts — a hip Olympic pantheon of race, class, gender, and environmental gods. Their own privilege — be it the techie lifestyle of the Silicon Valley, the Ivy League quad, the Malibu gated estate, the Montana getaway, the Upper West Side ambiance — even under Obama just cannot yet be extended to everyone.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? How can a richeral be redistributionist and statist when such ideologies are targeted at one’s own cherished lifestyle? So penance, medieval exemption, and confessions step in as civilization’s age-old remedies for the guilt of such a pious sinner.
Wear jeans as you board your jet. Listen to rap as you review your stock options. Champion a baitfish. Hate Sarah Palin. Make Travyon into a symbol of resistance. Amnesty for your gardener and nannie alike. Being a richeral apparently means you never have to say you are sorry about the means you used to get your cash, why you mean to keep and expand it, and how you plan to pass it on to your richeral kids.
Barack Obama came to Fresno last week to address the drought. He did not mention the diversions over the last five years of precious irrigation water out to sea. Nor did he talk of any possible funding to build new mountain reservoirs. Instead, he talked mostly of climate change and some new federal loans to address it. We were to assume that both the record cold, ice, and snow back east (that the president fled from) and the record lack of rain here in the West were due to man-made global warming. In terms of “climate change” reductionism, anything counts — a drought or a monsoon, ice or fire, the doldrums or hurricanes, occurring on average, below average, or above average.
In other words, for Obama the drought was sort of like pushing radical new gun control laws in reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy: another occasion to demagogue a political agenda that most likely has nothing to do with addressing the problem at hand.