They did it when I wasn’t looking, when my back was either turned in entirely feigned disinterest or bent to the work of surviving in the so-called gig economy: they changed what it meant to be rich. I don’t mean the numbers, although it is sobering to think that any one of the modern Illuminati can, and often do, spend in a day what a surgeon or senior attorney could make in a lifetime. I’m talking about the actual existence of the rich, the way they live.
My grandfather, the first John Baruth, was rich. Not by today’s standards, mind you. His home in Clearwater was modestly sized and I am certain he went to his grave without ever having flown private. Rather, he was rich in the way that a small-town surgeon or mid-city attorney used to be rich. He retired in his fifties, played tennis, wore and ate whatever suited him. They knew his name at his club and at his church. He was treated with universal respect. Having worked hard for much of his life, he was generous, serene, and cheerful in wealth.
Today’s rich people exhibit little of that serenity or cheerfulness. They sullenly eschew the sartorial and behavorial trappings of traditional American wealth, such as the fine dresses and elegant disposition, for an aesthetic best described as “about to go running in mildly bad weather.” The goal is to mimic the appearance of perpetual exercise, all the better to accompany the Bezos-esque bobblehead-and-pencil-neck marathoner’s build that one apparently cannot avoid picking up somewhere between open-plan-office and C-suite. The primary social message is: I am successful enough to spend my entire life in some sort of aerobic activity. They snipe at the “uniform” of three-piece Brooks Brothers suit even as they all don completely identical light-blue psuedo-exercise vests and fleeces. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that they view the replacement of American tradecraft clothing with sweatshop polyester garbage as a feature, not a bug.
And then, of course, we have their cars.