Let Them Eat Cake!


Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 5.54.20 PMLast week, tons of coal dust spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina, turning it into nothing but a black morass of sludge.  It reminded me of the phrase, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” or let them eat cake.  Supposedly, Marie Antoinette never uttered those words, but that’s beside the point.  I’m also not all that impressed with the so-called scholarship of Lady Antonia Frasier, who made the claim.  The pastry in question was allegedly a brioche.  Or, rather let them eat pot scrapings.  Today, though, the quote is disputed, as is Frasier’s scholarship.  After all, we simply can’t have such a nasty comment uttered by a dingy ultra-wealthy princess, who literally lost her head due to a populist uprising, primarily due to the obscene spending of she and her husband, and the food shortages of the years leading to the Terror in France.  Cake is also another word for the build-up of soot in a dirty fireplace. Or, let them eat fireplace soot.  No, we just can’t allow that phrase to be studied, can we?

What we do know is that unbridled wealth and power leads to abject narcissism.  The wealthier people are, the more likely they are to break laws, and feel like they can get away with it.  We’re most definitely seeing that here in the US, these days.  We also need to add that the ultra wealthy, business class, who are worth all those billions are among a Wall Street predatory class who have the highest instances of psychopaths of any other occupation in the world!  They really don’t care who they hurt in their acquisition of wealth and power.

“...That could perpetuate a deepening lack of empathy that could fuel narcissistic tendencies. “You could imagine negative attitudes toward wealth redistribution as a result of entitlement,” says Piff. “The more severe inequality becomes, the more entitled people may feel and the less likely to share those resources they become.” The wealthier certain segments of society become, then, the more vulnerable communities may be to selfish tendencies — and the less charity the least among us can expect….”

The libertarian theory is if the government ceases to fund such useless vanities as the arts and science, and even social welfare needs, the people, who are so thrilled about having the yoke of oppression blasted from around their red little necks, will do so themselves.  It’s a nice theory.  The problem is, it doesn’t work.  Oh, it does, when we the little people have money to be able to afford to do it, but when we’re barely hanging on, doing without basic necessities of life, we just can’t afford it.

The concept is that the ultra wealthy, who no longer must worry about their money being taken and put into evil taxes, will be so thrilled they will automatically fund things like the arts, and even food banks. It’s a nice concept.  But – well, we’re starting to learn that the ultra wealthy don’t give a rip about anyone but themselves and enriching their own bottom line.  In fact, according to one study, the rich donate about 1.3% of what they earn to charity while the rest of us donate 3.2%.

In fact, in 2012, according to a study, one of the top 50 individual charitable gifts went to a social service organization or to a charity that services the poor.  They have a tendency to put it into foundations that salve their vast egos.  Case in point is the Walton Family Foundation.  The ultra wealthy simply aren’t donating to charities unless they can benefit from them.   They do donate 70% of everything that goes to charity, but it goes to the arts, universities, and foundations with their names on it.  Sometimes it goes to medical research.

College endowments get about $38 billion a year (in 2011).  Religion received $95 billion.  The arts received $13 billion.  And – that’s my complaintThe ultra wealthy make a big game out of donating money to the arts but they don’t.  Forget even seeing a donation that goes to human services or helping the poor.  In all fairness, I must state that, in 2013, David Koch pledged $100 million to NY-Presb Hospital for a new ambulatory care center.  Every other major donation, or pledge in the hundreds of millions went to universities and learning institutes.  That’s nice, but those are vanity gifts that help the institution, provide for named chairs, and give a lot of prestige.  I basically have nothing but contempt for such donations.

The libertarian mantra is that people will donate to the arts.  Ergo, we don’t fund the arts as a nation. Ergo, we become a much more ignorant society.  If you want proof, just look at Duck Dynasty.   Other, more enlightened countries see the arts as a birthright, for all.  In this country, the arts are to be plundered, terminated, and ignored.  In this country, if a child studies the arts and humanities in school, it is now an embarrassment for the parents.

Let them eat coal dust waste, indeed. That’s about all we’re going to have left of this once great nation.  When you ignore the arts, you ignore the very soul of humanity.  When you ignore the arts, you ignore the process of teaching people how to think, to reason, to make logical decisions.  You also rob a nation of its unique individuality.  I’m absolutely convinced that’s the whole point, robbing the young people of this nation of their unique individuality.  If you read the rantings of far right so-called Christian leaders, they stress forcing young people to lose individuality and to conform to what they are taught.

We have a nation in severe crises.