One of the attractions of the series Succession, whose last season is airing these days on HBO, is that it lifts the veil on the lives of the ultra-rich: viewers delight in the sumptuous interiors, helicopter rides, breathtaking landscapes in which the powerful find themselves (Tuscan countryside, Norwegian mountains, etc.).
The Roy family’s clothing even started a trend: “quiet luxury”, which consists of wearing ultra-expensive but ultra-neutral clothing, without logos, because flaunting your wealth is vulgar, everyone knows that. , except the new rich…
In White Dog, whose action takes place in California, Romain Gary spoke of “the provocative society” to describe the opposition between the exhibitionism of wealth and the poverty of the population who struggled to meet basic needs. Dahlia Namian made it the title of her virulent essay.
The sociology professor from the University of Ottawa has collected a ton of data that she puts in opposition: on the one hand the violent excess of the rich, on the other the poverty and suffering of the masses. Pierre Falardeau had used the same process in Le temps des bouffons when he contrasted, on the one hand, a meeting of wealthy businessmen and, on the other, the consequences of the conquest of Quebec by the English. If not subtle, it was effective.
But rest assured, Dahlia Namian’s essay is not as Manichean as Le temps des bouffons. The author has done her research to fully explain the impact of the excesses of the rich on the lives of their contemporaries.
Let’s face it, his book comes at a very good time. Even if the luxury industry is doing well (the proof, Bernard Arnault is the richest man in the world and his LVMH group makes a fortune selling its Vuitton bags), the fascination exerted by the lifestyle of the ultra-rich begins to falter.
The pandemic, combined with the climate crisis and the economic crisis, has further widened the gap between social classes. Dahlia Namian reminds us that “the wealth of Canada’s 64 billionaires has increased by 57.1% since 2020”. Another piece of data points out that the wealthy have gotten richer during the pandemic than in the previous 20 years!
Result: some things don’t work anymore. Like this time when American host Ellen DeGeneres compared her confinement in her beautiful Californian villa to a prison when the majority of the population was living through the pandemic in apartments that were too small, without access to nature. The reaction had been strong.
Dahlia Namian cites the example of Elon Musk floating a Tesla in space, just because he could. These destructive delusions of the wealthy are no longer as much fun as before. They have become obscene.
The extravagances of the ultra-rich are just the tip of the iceberg. What is invisible to the naked eye is even more problematic: tax evasion, funding of political parties, occult influence, setting up private foundations that influence state public policies, decisions made based on shareholder dividends to the detriment of the well-being of the population and the workforce. The excesses and paradoxes of billionaires Carlos Slim, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, among others, are pointed out.
As Paul Reich, former adviser to Bill Clinton, recently pointed out on Facebook: “Elon Musk lost $13 billion in 24 hours on Thursday, and he is still the second richest person in the world. Don’t tell me billionaires can’t afford a wealth tax. »
One wonders if at the point where we are, a tax could change something, or if the system is not broken forever.
“Over the past decade, the number and funding of private foundations have grown in Canada, to the point that they now reap profits well in excess of inflation rates or Canadian GDP growth. However, this growth has not resulted in a greater redistribution of wealth. And that’s the rub. Despite its altruistic or “innovative” claims, philanthrocapitalism contributes to blurring the social safety net that protects the poorest and actually reduces inequalities, sometimes by privatizing essential public services, sometimes by capturing money that would otherwise go into the coffers of State. »