We now live in the age of inequality porn.
Apparently, the lives of the über-rich are illustrated in Chrystia Freeland’s new book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
In Freeland’s telling, one crucial factor distinguishes today’s uber-rich from their forebears: They carry a striking sense of entitlement, seeing themselves as people who have constructed their own fortunes, as opposed to aristocrats who inherited their affluence. Freeland calls them the “working rich,” and she makes clear that this is indeed how they see themselves. Given their self conceptions as rugged individualists whose wealth reflects not the accident of birth but their own pluck and savvy, they are of little mind to share their rightful winnings with anyone else — especially not with losers who failed to erect their own fortunes, or government bureaucrats sustained by taxing other people’s loot.
On the other end, we can participate in “slum tourism.”
What is it about the slums that attracts hordes of tourists each year?
Dr Malte Steinbrink at the University of Osnabruck in Germany, says: “We are currently witnessing a tremendous growth in slum tourism worldwide, especially in the global south.”
He notes that the trend started in Victorian London over 150 years ago, when people from the London upper class were curious to see what happened in the East End.
In the global south it is a quite recent phenomenon – starting at the beginning of the 1990s in South Africa after the end of apartheid, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
“Tourists came to South Africa and wanted to see the townships and places of the apartheid repression and Mandela’s house – so it began as a niche tourism for tourists with a special political interest,” says Dr Steinbrink.
If we’re going to spend our time looking at all this softcore porn stemming from growing inequality, it’s about time we asked for explicit portrayals of how the über-rich are screwing the poor and everyone else.