Beyond Brushstrokes

During the long season of angst, one needs to be attuned to the times.

The members of the affluent class display disparate behavioral traits.

Observe the low-key scions of the old rich families with vintage pre-war fortunes. As sensible, socially aware individuals, they are sensitive to the plight of the less fortunate. In keeping with the hard times, they act with restraint and modesty. Despite their recession-proof status, they prefer to keep a low profile.

Noblesse oblige as the French say. Nobility obliges. Those who have more in life have an obligation to help others. There is more value when an anonymous donor does it quietly, discreetly. Unless it is a well-established corporate foundation.

To defy the global economic trends and uncertainty, the flashy arrivistes and notorious celebrities flaunt their newfound fortune in a vainglorious effort to impress others.

The parvenus crave social prominence. They are eager social butterflies with a voracious appetite for recognition. Thus, they attend the numerous balls, auctions, and donate heavily or bid aggressively. They organize self-promoting events.

To justify lavish spending, there are convenient beneficiaries. (Who knows how much of the funds are actually given to poor orphans or the endangered species?)

When the benefit event is organized annually by trustworthy individuals and civic groups with good track records, the donations are sure to be distributed immediately to the needy and marginalized beneficiaries.

Instead of adapting to the hard times, the new rich and infamous (who try so hard to become famous) cultivate a flamboyant lifestyle. (The better to impress and to entertain the impressionable and gullible spectators. It’s a vicarious thrill to make life miserable for others.)

“Let them eat cake,” Queen Marie Antoinette said, they say. For her careless and heartless frivolity and insensitivity, she earned the contempt and rage of the starving masses. She lost her gilded throne, crown, and bejeweled head.

It is very difficult for people to accept such tasteless, arrogant displays of wealth. The senseless, callous creatures are social dinosaurs that climb mountains to attempt to pierce the elite inner circles.

In the rarefied atmosphere of the powerful, money is just a tool. It can neither guarantee nor secure one’s social status or ascendancy.

There are two categories: Those who are and those who want to be.

The insensitive rich are afflicted with myopia, selective eyesight, like ostriches they see what they want to see and ignore the rest. Some inhabit a surreal, woven cocoon with purified air. Isolated and insulated from the real world, they live a detached, disembodied existence. Away from the noise and grime of everyday realities. The material world is the only realm. Everything revolves around money and what it can buy.

The pleasure of having a lot of money and a jet-set lifestyle matter more than anything else to these creatures.

Unfortunately, the novelty wears off. Material pleasure is fleeting.

We recall the Asian crisis in the 1990s. In one country before the crisis, the elite class was impervious to the poverty and misery around it.

The wealthy show-offs rode in Rolls Royce limousines that matched their designer clothes. (Like the crazy rich Asians.) The ostentatious balls were regular extravaganzas organized by the ultra-rich women of leisure. Glamor and glitz abounded among the glittering gowns and dazzling jewels.

The party had to end somehow. In 1997, The Asian crisis plunged that country’s economy into the doldrums. The deep hatred, rage, and bitterness of the less privileged against the rich finally exploded like a volcano.

Media captured some of the violent incidents on television. The Internet circulated horror stories of ethnic mass rape and murder. The world was shocked and horrified by the tragic events.

Déjà vu.

The experience in that country was reminiscent of other revolutions. The most prominent was the storming of the Bastille more than two centuries ago. The insensitive French monarch and the royal court became victims of their own folly.

People in power who are in similar situations should learn the hard lessons from past political disasters. Before it is too late.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.