Monday, June 20, 2011

brother can you lend a hand?

Having taken a break from yet again furiously updating my shit list (those of you in the know know what I mean), last week, I did something a little unusual for me entirely by mistake of course. Back to back, I watched a movie about the early life of Coco Chanel (of the little black dress fame) then read an article about Silvio Berlusconi (prime minister of Italy of the has-sex-with-considerably-younger-prostitutes fame). Had it not been for the temporal proximity of these two rags-to-riches stories in my consciousness, I wouldn't have been reminded of something I haven't thought about in a long while: the American Dream (triple negative sentence, score! grammar be damned!)

Caveat: The following is a little departure from the tone of my earlier posts (you will see the word f**k, minus the *s, several times). Reader discretion is advised.

Here's a little synopsis of the two biographies, laden with my not-so-subtle bias:

Coco Chanel. Born in the late 1800s, she was an orphan (does losing only one parent qualify one for full-fledged orphandom? just wondering) who was taught to sew by the nuns in whose care she was entrusted (dumped in their orphanage). Cut to years later when, after a bit of singing in a cabaret of less-than-stellar repute ("if you want ze prostitutes, zey are by ze other wall" she disdainfully instructs the confused clientelle), she latches on to a rich playboy, with whom she lives for a while and who winds up financing her early fashion endeavors (mostly hats, of the straw variety, which, by contrast to the bird's-nests of the time, are hailed as marvelously simple and chic)(I forgot to be incredulous about that when, again per the movie I was watching, she cut his shirts up and tacked the collars and sleeves to hidious blah-colored dresses which were then hailed as marvelous as well)(nope, still cannot buy either as fashionable)(more Caca than Coco, if you ask me). She then meets and cheats with a married entrepreneur who gratefully coughs up the seed money for the first of subsequently many Chanel stores. The rest is fashion-icon history. So, to recap: she fucked her way up the fashion empire ladder (at least initially).

Silvio (Papi) Berlusconi. Born to a middle class bank employee and homemaker, the future prime minister of Italy started out by studying law but very quickly diverged into construction projects that yielded his early fortune (am I the only one who makes the connection: Italian, construction, cement, money, illegal?)(fine, I'll say it: Hello Mafia? It's me, Papi). Cut to years later when said early fortune is exponentially multiplied by bribing his way in and out of other projects, as the need arose. Eventually, construction empire begot media empire, which then turned into monopoly of media in Italy, which was parlayed into a bid in politics, which then led to the ultimate political office, where currently, our now 73 year-old Papi changes the laws of the country at the whim of the needs of his empire. He is also in hot water for the 17 year old prostitute he paid to tickle his fancy, but many people believe he will be able to extricate himself unharmed from this particular legal jam as well. So, to recap: he fucked his competition and the law for his empire (and then he naturally moved on to under age girls, naturally).

Moral of the stories? Never mind the nationality of these two, it seems that the old adage of working hard to reach the American Dream, or its foreign equivalent, is so no longer applicable. Unless you are born rich* (inherit your empire), marry rich (not as widespread as the next option) or turn your 15-minute of fame/infamy into riches, you, regular American citizen, will never be able the reach the glass ceiling, much less break it. The only way to do it is through some form of illegal/ill-attained gains: money given to you for behind-the-doors illicit endeavor of the extracurricular kind, or some form of under-the-table illicit scheme, of the bribing, drugging, etc. kind. Granted, there are notable exceptions like the Mark Zuckerbergs, Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world, but honestly, how many of us can claim to own that kind of genius DNA? And even they didn't just work hard, they worked hard while simultaneously traveling so far outside the proverbial box that they were in the firmament before you could say facebook, microsoft or apple. The straight and narrow, apparently, no longer pays off, at least not in the consumable liquid kind.

With 52% of our disposable income spent on lodging and transportation alone, how are we then, mere mortals, supposed to amass our fortune? And (again, unless your first name is Mark, Bill or Steve or you're the heir apparent to some ginormous fortune), can you really get rich and famous without being infamous or fucking for/with other people's money? The more biographies I look into, the more I realize the answer is a resounding no. Am I right or am I right? or am I right, right?

* I am lumping the Arab princes of oil-ness in this category because essentially they inherited the barrels of liquid gold from the earth just as naturally as aristocrats in Europe passed down mansions, titles, and fortunes to their progeny.


At 6/20/11, 7:48 PM , Blogger Nora said...

You are right I say as I recover from work-hastily swallowed meals-long commute that constitutes my day. Having said that... whatever happened to being content with your lot in life? The grass is greener at the neighbors' they say because their yard is full of sh**t


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