The Rise of New Ruling Class: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/
Back in the college, a lot of my reading assignments were the copies of The Atlantic Monthly’s article. I hated it, since they were pretty long. Ironically, after the graduation, I started to like it, and now I am a regular subscriber.
The main article of February issue was the new riches and how it is affecting the inbetweeners and have-nots. And also how the opportunity pool is becoming slimmer and slimmer. Me being both (pretty much…), I was very interested in what the article would say.
According to the article, the nouveau-riche of globalization are young, self-made and working, which is a difference compared to old-school riches. Fine, and I know a lot of hardworking, self-made riches. In fact, I do not object when someone says most riches are rich because they work harder than others (plus some luck). But as the article goes into the description of average attitude of new riches, I became increasingly uncomfortable – a lot of them, being a self-made hardworking people, tend to think the rest of the world is jealous of them, and others who did not make it to their level are just incompetent. Think of how Wall Street bankers pissed the public off during and after the bailout. It makes sense under that rational.
At this point, I could not help thinking about my high school experience and college volunteering in a local homeless center. Back in the college, I was (probably) the only international student in my department to participate in a local community service – I worked at a local homeless shelter late evening shift as a proofreader and resource manager (helping people using PCs and books). Originally, I wanted to work in the city hall but the seat was taken, so the only choice left for me was homeless center night-shift. Like most people, I too associated homeless with many negative images – junkie, lazy, dangerous, sick, dirty, etc. I still remember the nervousness on my first week. Boy, but I was flat wrong. Many of the folks were so friendly and kind. And most importantly, a lot of them were able, good-natured and hardworking people who simply missed out lady luck’s blessing. If I remember correctly, 19th British term for poor people were “unfortunate ones.” They couldn’t be more right.
I don’t deny the nouveau-riche’s sweat and blood. Many of them worked for it and they deserve it. However, is it really all because they were smart and worked hard? Some never get a chance no matter how they worked their blood and sweat out. Their hard work came to fruition, because the right chance came at the right moment with right luck. Sure, these don’t fill up the large portion of wealth fruit pie – but without them, no matter how hard you work, it will never be realized. Those are out of control, unlike a person’s hard work. And I believe that is why you need to be able to share what you have with have-nots; what came as your luck might not be yours, originally.
Some of the nouveau-riches’ attitude and bubble described in the article made me think of my rich, six-digit-median-income suburban high school. I mentioned in my blog that the whole neighborhood was a real-life J Crew/Ralph Lauren catalogue. Everyone spent their entire life in the town bubble, hanging out only with similar kinds, and their international experience was nothing except summer trip to Bahama and Carribean. Though I had some of my favorite people in school, I, who came from a small country in East Asian corner, could never relate to them (and I wasn’t much of interest to most of them, either). I still don’t consider myself as a member of that community. The attitude depicted in the article was very much like that neighborhood – even in the recession, the town’s median income is still six digits, and made it to one of the top 10 most expensive suburban town in America.
However, one person mentioned was different: Dr. Mohamed El-Erian, current Chief Executive Officer of Pimco. Born to Egyptian father and French mother, he grew up in Egypt, US, UK, Switzerland, France, studied in Oxford and Cambridge, and now working for American company. He was mentioned as a different nouveau-riche, someone aware of that the new elites cannot turn away from have-nots, and how turning away from them will ultimately crumble down what elites have now.
El-Erian sees this because he grew up in multiple, different spheres: he grew up in rural Egypt, a poverty-stricken country where the gap between haves and have-nots are huge, and prosperous western Europe. It wouldn’t be possible if he were just like another new elite, who spent his/her entire life in one country and fails to understand the world as a whole, other than commodity. And I think this is how TCKs should be, and can be – we can be the positive force. Hopefully, how non-TCKs view us will change soon, and give us a chance.
Choi family of Kyoungju city, Korea, is a legendary wealthy family, often quoted as one of the original Asian noblesse oblige. Some of their family rules tell a lot to this situation:
– Do not earn more than 10,000 sacks of rice: whenever the annual earning sum exceeded 10,000 rice sacks from their serf, Choi family either lowered the land fee or returned the rice to the servants and farmers.
– Always use 1,000 sacks of rice for the have-nots.
– In time of famine, do not deal real estates.
– Make sure no one is starving within 24 miles.
The new elites/riches might think noblesse oblige is out of date, and today is time where only the fittest survive and everything is purely meritocracy. I disagree. Wealth without restraint is the worst form of vulgarity – and it will hurt the wealth itself someday.
From 1:00ish – he can’t he more right. And he is self-made man, too. With a bit of luck.