With a billionaire in the White House, people around me are talking about money and privilege and blaming the rich for most of our social ills. Is it any wonder the upper class suffers from paranoia? If you doubt my observation, consider writer Jessica Pressler’s report that security companies, those catering to the one percenters, are enjoying a boom market. (“Protect & Serve,” by Jessica Pressler, Town&Country, 12/2016 to 1/2017, pgs. 178-181.)
I know what it’s like to feel insecure. As a politician, I’ve received my share of death threats and made my rounds with a couple of sheriff’s deputies at my side. The guys were cute but having my steps dogged was restrictive. Imagine a grown woman asking permission to go to the bathroom. Besides, the presence of body guards did nothing to make me feel safe. Instead, I saw danger everywhere — in a crowded corridor, a favorite coffee shop or standing on a street corner while waiting for a traffic light to change.
Surprisingly, kidnappings and home invasions are rare in the United States. (Ibid pg. 180) The main reason wealthy folks hire protection is to ward off “…the endless parade of people who think that you can – and should help their cause.” (Ibid pg. 180) In fact, as Pressler notes, the biggest threat to the rich aren’t strangers but people they know. Start with the hired help.
I’ve never been super wealthy, but I’ve rubbed shoulders with a few who were. One woman in San Francisco was forever at the mercy of her housekeeper. Every week, like Shahrazad, this woman came to work with a new tale of woe. Her car needed new brakes; her son required a set off dentures; her husband needed bail money. She was so inventive, she could have earned a handsome living as a fiction writer, I am certain.
The sums she extracted weren’t enormous, but as a steady drip, they added up to quite a “bonus.” She could have bankrolled a Harvard education for her toothless son, if he’d been enrolled.
The rich are vulnerable because the less fortunate see them not as people but as ATM machines. Imagine how it feels to pay off your cousin’s horse racing debts because he’s a gossip and he knows you pawned your father’s ukulele when you were 10.
Already, I hear the unemployed coal miner in Appalachia shrug. He could live with the angst in exchange for a villa in the South of France and a private jet. I understand. But in life there are trade offs. Which do you value most? Trusted family and friends or money? …Okay. I get it. You’re thinking.