There’s rich and there’s rich. There’s a number beyond which stuff starts to get boring. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s the point at which you run out of restaurants to frequent and clubs to join and clothes to buy and you start thinking bigger. You start thinking about going to space and colonizing Mars — and exploring the dark depths of the deep blue sea. It is the reason that Elon Musk sold his seven homes and chucked out most of his possessions and torments his staff by sleeping at work. It is also part of the reason that five men are now sadly believed to have died while aboard a missing submarine after a “catastrophic implosion.”
If we didn’t love to hate the rich, this would have been seen for what it is: a tragedy. But in these chronically online and pathetically political times, the reaction to the news has been to label them “rich idiots,” or to publish articles about what political party the CEO of the submarine company donated money to, or to tell all of our online followers what moral mission we would have spent our fortune on.
At times this criticism was hinted at. At others it was explicit. Ash Sarkar, a tasteless British activist, seemed to think that the incident was an argument for socialism: “The Titanic submarine is a modern morality tale of what happens when you have too much money, and the grotesque inequality of sympathy, attention and aid for those without it. Migrants are ‘meant’ to die at sea; billionaires aren’t.” Five men dying in a nightmarish accident is now nothing but fodder for the culture war, because it happened to be an expensive accident. If you can muster up any sympathy for them, you are on the wrong side, comrades.
We have become too comfortable telling people with lots of money how to spend it. If you dared to counsel a single mother on welfare on how to spend her last twenty bucks you’d be denounced for patronizing insensitivity. Telling a friend she should have forked out a bit more for a hairdresser would be considered very rude. The truth is that nobody should tell them how to spend money; I don’t care if the single mother spends her last dime on cigarettes or baby wipes and nobody else should either — and I’ll still love my friend with her cheap, wonky bangs. When it comes to people with hundreds of millions and billions, we start to take the moral high ground. We start talking about how their money could save the world and about how they don’t need to do anything more extravagant with it than that. We want rich people to spend their days pottering around reading books or sailing on their yachts and even then we still hate them, we just hate them less than if they do anything out of the ordinary because it doesn’t make the news.
Space looks boring and I can’t swim, so neither activity is really for me but I’m glad someone else is bothering to go. Every man I’ve ever asked would go to space in a heartbeat no matter the risk, and every woman I’ve ever asked isn’t fussed. (We’re smarter). A flight there will cost you anything from $250,000 to $500,000 for suborbital trips (a fifteen-minute ride to the edge of space and back) or, for the more hardcore trips to actual orbit you’re looking at $50 million per seat. Isn’t that amazing?
Rich men doing crazy, borderline stupid, things has long been the way we push things forward. Newton was born rich and could wait for an apple to fall on his head; in fact the entire of the Royal Society was made up of toffs. Charles Darwin never had to work for his living and thank God for that. Voltaire had so much dosh that he loaned some of it to Kings and if James Watt wasn’t well-bred, he’d not have invented the steam engine. It turns out that if you don’t have to slave away working Victorian peasant hours, you have the freedom and means to do what no one has before, and sometimes it works.
Far worse than megarich adventures are rich people who don’t have fun. I know a couple with tens of millions tucked away that live in a two-up-two-down outside of London because they don’t want their socialist friends knowing how much dosh they have. Could you imagine that? It’s like Jay Gatsby having a five-person dinner party because he doesn’t want to show off.
What this comes down to is the fact that we don’t have billions of dollars, so we don’t really know how we’d spend it because we can’t even imagine it. You better believe if I win big that I’d be skydiving over Mount Everest ($25,000) or taking a private plane to the South Pole, and that’s after my $100,000 facelift and eating every edible flower prepared by every top chef and ordering every drink on the menu. Let rich people spend their money however they want, if only for the fact that listening to someone talk about how they are investing it all in their children’s future, is quite possibly the most boring thing you can hear.