New Money, New Low

New Money, New Low January 9, 2012

I’m just going to come out and say it: the French Revolution frakked everything up.

It’s obvious that nothing good can come of this

I’m not saying the old aristocratic system was fair, nor am I saying that abuses didn’t happen regularly. They did, I’m sure. But after watching so much Downton Abbey, I’m more convinced than ever that there was something to the idea of the “nobility” after all. People like the Earl of Grantham took their position seriously. They believed that there was something to this idea of being noble, and that to fulfill what was given to them they had to, you know, be noble. Even if it meant opening up their family home to injured and recovering soldiers. Even if it meant starting a soup kitchen for soldiers returning from the front out of their own funds. Even if it meant sacrificing the life they had carefully cultivated for their daughters because injured men needed care, and the girls were willing to help.

This morning one of my friends posted this little gem on facebook and well, I threw up in my mouth a little. In case you don’t want to click on the link, I’ll just tell you. Jay-Z and Beyonce, two of the most odiously-named celebrities in the world, had their daughter in a Manhattan hospital yesterday.

Pretty people, awful names

They rented out an entire floor for the festive C-section…the floor which also happened to contain the NICU.

The NICU, people. The place where newborn babies are fighting for their lives. Beyonce and her entourage allegedly rented out the floor where terrified, anxious parents pace the hallways, waiting for the precious minutes in which they will be allowed to see their sick and injured infants. As the article alleges, every time anyone from Beyonce’s crew wanted to use the hallway, everyone else was ushered out and the floor went on lockdown.

Parents were apparently kept from seeing their babies in the NICU. Doctors were kept from seeing patients.

What. The. Hell?

No, seriously. This is appalling. I mean look, it may not be true. And yet I wouldn’t be even a little surprised if it were true, which in itself says something about the character of these two asshats. Granted, the hospital should never have allowed this. And yet…and yet, what do these two think happens in a hospital? People are ill or in childbirth. They need access to doctors and OR’s and medical equipment. What did they think would happen when they rented out an entire floor?  And what for? Who needs a whole floor for a C-section? One room, people. Two at the most.

On the facebook thread, my friend mentioned that even the royal family doesn’t do this. They rent out one corner of a hospital floor where they can come and go and keep their security intact without disrupting the other laboring women and their families. Someone said that this is the difference between old money and new.

There’s something to that, although you can’t boil it down quite that simply. There are plenty of people who are “new money” who would never dream of pulling the ridiculously selfish stunt that Beyonce and Jay-Z just pulled. And there are plenty of old money people who would.

But there’s something to the idea that if one family inherits money, land and a title, that family owes everything to others. To the ancestors who built what they now have, to the people whose jobs provide for the family’s daily needs, and to the people around them who have less than they do. Generosity wasn’t always found in the aristocracy, it’s true; but it was often found there.

How many of today’s celebrities, America’s aristocracy, would open up their homes and their wallets to soldiers returning from war? How many would use their position to help? And I don’t mean to proselytize their opinions on just who’s to blame for the war, but to actually, physically, help.

I don’t think very many would. Certainly not in the way the British aristocracy opened up their country homes and let their daughters go off to drive ambulances and tend soldiers and man anti-aircraft guns while their sons fought at the front during the two world wars.

I really do think that the way the money comes about plays into this. After all, if you’ve made your own money, it’s yours. You’ve done it. You don’t owe anyone anything, and can do with it whatever you please. But if the money is given to you, well, then, you have someone you owe. Usually many people. You were entrusted with the money and you must honor that trust.

Right? What do you think? I’m not calling for a return to aristocracy…actually, I think that would be impossible in this day and age, and furthermore a democracy actually does hold the greatest potential for universal recognition of essential human dignity. But there’s something so vulgar in the Hollywood elite. Many things, really. And since all people who have money don’t behave that way, there has to be something about the way the money was made that makes the entertainment aristocracy particularly grotesque. I’m just not sure what it is.

Oh yeah, and I do realize that I’m painting with a broad brush here, but I can’t split all the hairs that ought to be split in a blog post. Let me just put it this way: for every Bono there is a Jennifer Lopez.

So, theories? Why is it that the entertainment industry seems to have the corner on these kinds of tacky displays of wealth at the expense of those around them?

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