Friday, December 10, 2010

movers and shakers

F. Scott Fitzgerald once described the very rich as "not like you and me." Hemingway disagreed, saying the only difference is that they have more money than the rest of us. I'm sure there's an element of truth in both of these statements, but sometimes I'm reminded just how differently they live.

This guy is retiring and is going to be an "executive in residence" and make $75,000 a year for 24 hours of work because "His BlackBerry contains 1,300 names of movers and shakers in Northeast Ohio."

I wonder what kind of work this involves, or if they're simply hiring his Blackberry. I also wonder how you end up with over a thousand phone numbers and what happens if said device gets stolen. I wonder if these people were such movers and shakers why nothing seems to be moving or shaking unless they've been raking in graft like the rest of the upper echelons have been, but my guess is they live in the suburbs or the really exclusive parts of the city in a world far removed from my own.

One of my great-uncles told me that when I went to school I should figure out who the rich and connected kids were and hang out with them because then I would go far in life and be successful. One of my uncles dropped out but his fraternity connections have taken him everywhere and he's pretty well off. I hear other people talk like this, and it's not like they're bad people, it's just such a different mentality than what I was raised with and how I see things.

I didn't do so well at this, majoring in English and an unfinished art minor, and the rich kids I knew were all pretending that they weren't from Shaker, Solon or Hudson, dumpster-diving and sleeping on mats and being fake Buddhists, talking about anarchy and consumerism while spending loads of money on concert tickets, drugs, surround sound systems, Apple products, and eternal grad school.

It was so weird to be eating at vegan potlucks as kids whose dads made six figures talked about "workers of the world" and how that world was far removed from my own, where you either did community college or got lucky and went to a state school if your grades were good and you got some scholarships or financial aid, where your "ethnic" last name shows where you are in the social strata especially when you get outside your city.

I could theoretically move and shake at my place of employment but I enjoy my fellow peons far more than most of those who have letters after their names who only associate with others on their level.

I don't tend to trust most people in suits as it is, since it seems like most of the evil in the world is perpetrated by the well-dressed. The men that I grew up admiring are people like my dad, coming home after working 12 hour days, with cracked hands covered in dirt and salt, wearing old hoodies and thermals and work boots, who listen to the Rolling Stones and NPR and reading all sorts of books, with a lack of interest in affluence and a preference for good music and maybe a baseball game or two.

My dad once told me he couldn't work behind a desk and dress up for work every day. It's something I do but I don't have to bother with power suits or trying to sell things. I've gotten to know a lot of people between where I live and work and worship, and so does he. It's just that the people he knows are Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Vietnamese families who run the corner stores, the Puerto Rican kids who stock the shelves at Marc's, and the people he plays music with and goes to church with.

That's what I know best and am attracted to most, and I'm sure that sometimes I judge those outside that circle a bit unfairly if I'm honest. It's a world that is both closed and uninteresting to me that seems so calculating and ungenuine.

And in the wake of more major political shenanigans and shadiness on a large scale, I'm more and more convinced that C.S. Lewis had it so right here:
"The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."


Randal Graves said...

Aw crap, one of the books I recently read had another swanky CS Lewis quote (not this one) that was at least as quietly biting about just these same wankers.

Cliche to say they inhabit a different planet, but they really do. Well, I'm off to purchase a Blackberry and a yellow power tie.

thatgirl said...

Don't forget the blue shirt with that lovely white collar!

Anonymous said...

there are all too many compromises to be made no matter what career one chooses but some jobs require choices that compromise other people who don't get to choose, other people who suffer the direct consequences, so better to stay close to the people involved.

Bridget Callahan said...

I mean, you hit the nail on the head with the fake buddhists. I wonder sometimes why I'm so bad at being slightly below middle class when I come from the nonprofit hippie class, and I wonder if it's because I went to high school with very upper class and thus never acquired the essential financial knowledge they teach the Parma kids.

I want to make a chart of all my different classes now.