Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Got enough?

  
"Heart of the Matter" by Otis Kaye (Art Institute of Chicago)

     So here's a question.
     Do you think that the Donald Trump story, when it is finally finished, when at last he shuffles off the national stage and into history, whether days or months or years from now, will lessen the allure of money, just the tiniest bit?
     A strange question, I know. But the daily shock of Trump saying something loathsome or another cringing underling blowing up or some daft policy being advocated becomes numbing, and one longs to step back and ponder, big picture. The harm to our country is completely unknowable. But how about the image of wealth, a much smaller consideration?
     I would never be so naive as to suggest that being rich will cease to be coveted. It has survived gaudier frauds than Trump, who was already notorious for the particular gold-plated brand of glitzy crap that he and his brand have long represented, for decades. At his gaudiest, yachtiest, go-go 1980s extreme, money still emitted its siren song. There is always someone who wants to wear his overlong, scotch-taped, made-in-China Trump necktie.
     And now he is president. As president, you see so clearly how his make-a-buck values betray him. How he chokes on his own inflamed self-regard. His tragedy, a man lost in self-absorption, who became president of the United States, and found,  not respect, nor peace, neither success or significance, but rather a daily international shame, thanks to his own stunted soul, a mind bottom-fed on the bottom line until it starved. His tiny, tinny, fragile, skewed world, the utter banality of the hired toadies and striving flatterers he surrounds himself with.
    There is a lesson in that, isn't there? Something about being a decent person. Something about money not really mattering all that much. Riches sure don't help him. Is there any reader who can honestly say, "Yes, I would like to be Donald Trump"—not, "Yes, I would like to be myself with Donald Trump's money and position," but "Yes, I want to be him, that man, thinking his thoughts, bearing his reputation, married to that woman?" 
     I suppose such people exist, but it is unimaginable to me. Trump is the true Midas story—if you remember your mythology, Midas was the king who wanted to turn what he touched to gold, was granted his wish, only to starve, surrounded by golden food.
     Maybe it's just me, but the fashion ads for hideously expensive garbage in the New York Times ring extra hollow now that Trump is president. The toys of the elite seem particularly ludicrous, the trappings of wealth extra sad. A Hummer pulls up at the stoplight, and the driver sneaks a glance over at me to see if he's being admired, and I think, immediately, sincerely, "What kind of idiot bought that tank? What must your interior life be like?"
     I have been doubly rich my entire adult life. First, because I've always worked, and earned a good living with money to spare. I never had to defraud anybody, nor collude with my nation's enemies, except, I suppose, the year I was a paid commentator on Fox News, and that was local, so hardly counts.
    And second because I was never so wealthy that I didn't appreciate what things I could buy. I've had a couple friends who I knew when they were starting out and after they became wealthy, and they were to a man better people before, the money giving them a self-estimate that wasn't warranted, wasn't attractive to behold. Success was a cataract over their eyes.
      Look at Trump. Everything is about him, his ego, his pride, his vanity. The concerns of the country are shrugged off. Truth, the future, other people, barely register. It's a disgusting display. As I said, I do not expect riches to fall from fashion. Even Donald Trump is not so vile as to cause people to be disgusted with money. But the larger lesson sits in plain sight, and I imagine people will notice.
     No need to decide this now. Just something to consider. Let me leave you with a poem.  Many witty phrases have been attributed to Kurt Vonnegut—he is like Mark Twain in that regard. But he really did write the following poem, called "Joe Heller," which I first noticed when it was printed in the New Yorker on May 16, 2005. I think it speaks for itself:

     True story, Word of Honor: 
     Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
     now dead,
     and I were at a party given by a billionaire
     on Shelter Island.

     I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
     to know that our host only yesterday
     may have made more money
     than your novel 'Catch-22'
     has earned in its entire history?"
     And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
     And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
     And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
     Not bad! Rest in peace!


34 comments:

  1. I think they're a lot of people out there - many Trump supporters - who like that he's a rich asshole who can, and does, say fuck you to the rest of the world. He can afford to be mean, small and stupid because he has money. I do believe there are a lot of people out there who would say "yes, I want to be Donald Trump". Perhaps not your readers, all of whom seem to be able to read and write in actual sentences and can understand and express complex ideas.

    I've never had money; just enough to live comfortably by my very modest standards. Maybe my standards wouldn't be so modest if I had a lot of money; I don't know. I wish I had more in my retirement, but have never wished to be rich. I think there's something sad about being able to buy absolutely anything you want. To me it's always been more important to work for something I want. When you can afford everything, nothing really means anything to you. On the other hand, there are people like Bill Gates who has (and has actually earned it) more money than Trump and does good with his riches. You never hear of a Donald and Melania (or Ivana or Marla) Trump Foundation. Maybe people look at Gates and say "I would like to be him and do good with my money". I would hope so.

    Were Trump less repulsive, I might almost feel sorry for him. His desperate need to be rich and loved and admired is really quite sad. But I can't give a shit because he's such a truly vile excuse for a human being.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you, Shari. But ole Rumpy *did* have a foundation. This reporter painstakingly delineated the crookedness of the operation and won himself a Pulitzer Prize! : )

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-donald-trump-retooled-his-charity-to-spend-other-peoples-money/2016/09/10/da8cce64-75df-11e6-8149-b8d05321db62_story.html?

      Delete
    2. I'm so embarrassed by my original post: they're as opposed to there are. It was late......

      Delete
  2. Trump is a sick man. Without money, his psychosis would manifest itself in some other vessel of self-importance.

    ReplyDelete
  3. yes, i would like to be donald trump

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nonsense. Even Donald Trump doesn't want to be Donald Trump.

      Delete
  4. The lust for money,fame and power coupled with the ability to achieve your aspirations fosters a tremendous amount of envy. Especially from those who achieve far less. While we may judge Mr Trump as repulsive . He is as they say the leader of the Free world. He sadly has chosen a direction that frightens us. Many people see Jimmy Carter as a misguided man. It all depends upon where you stand

    ReplyDelete
  5. i'd rather be donald trump than richard cory
    Yes I would If I could I surely would

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Trump is not "a gentleman from sole to crown, clean favored and imperially slim."

      Tom

      Delete
    2. I'd rather feel the trump beneath my feet.
      Yes, I would. If I could. I surely would.

      Delete
    3. Works for me. Richard Cory - El Condor Pasa, same theme.

      Delete
    4. Richard Cory is fictional, while Trump merely seems too ridiculous to be real.

      Delete
    5. Of EAR characters Trump seems more like Miniver Cheevey: a fantasist, who "loved the days of old.".

      Tom

      Delete
    6. Yes, Miniver Cheevey was my first thought, but then I obsessed over the same the observation Tony at 9:01 AM made.

      Delete
    7. Well, this post and the comments were like a luncheon seminar... Up to speed now, after reading "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheevy" and listening to "Richard Cory" and "El Condor Pasa." Not that I was totally unfamiliar with them, but it perhaps demonstrates that I belong more with the Fox News acolytes than among the erudite EGD crew assembled here that a reference to Professor Irwin Corey would resonate with me more promptly than Richard did. Sad! ; )

      Delete
    8. Jakash, my knowledge Richard Cory is strictly through Simon & Garfunkel. I knew nothing about Edwin Arlington Robinson until today. I tip my hat to Google.
      I do know who Professor Irwin Corey was, though. The world's foremost authority. Funny guy.

      Delete
    9. Edward Arlington Robinson was a fine poet. Evidently now out of fashion. As are most poets.

      TE

      Delete
  6. Except Trump isn't really rich. Real billionaires, like Buffett, Gates, and Koch recognize him for the fraudulent, bankrupt conman he really is. He's a poor man's idea of what a rich man is.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Many presidents enter office of meager means. Then leave to incredible wealth. bein a former president is a real money maker

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Historically, wealthy presidents and their cabinet members divested their businesses to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. VP Rockefeller did, as did others. I think I'd rather have a middle class prez who exploits his/her resume post-presidency than THIS.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  8. Trump has been quoted as saying he has no friends. Imagine going through life without making a single life-long friend.

    Most of us, at some point before our introduction to the Void, come to the realization that it is relationships, not money, that represent true wealth. Friends, family. This is the sum total of our life's equity. It is apparent that Trump has no real friends, and his small family seems to operate more out of fear than affection. His sons always have the deer in headlights look in their eyes when they are with him. He would be worthy of our pity if he weren't so destructive and dangerous.

    He is one of the poorest people on earth.

    The stars are aligned to ponder wealth - https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/being-rich-wrecks-your-soul-we-used-to-know-that/2017/07/28/7d3e2b90-5ab3-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?tid=pm_opinions_pop&utm_term=.f19728817183

    ReplyDelete
  9. Many presidents, starting with our first one, have been rich men but have nonetheless earned our admiration. Why do they do it, when they could live in greater comfort and luxury -- and freedom -- than the White House affords?

    With Trump, adulation of the masses seems to drive him on. And as Julius Caesar, speaking of the rewards of generalship, put it: "It's not the bigger tent, but the privilege of command."

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
  10. I snicker every single time I see a Hummer, and probably won't stop until the last one is off the street. The most absurd vehicle since the Yugo. With its ridiculously low mileage, it's the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to wasting money. I've never been inside one, but I've heard that they're not even that much roomier than the average car. Of all the useless ways to throw money away...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Of course, there are people who would *love* to be Trump. There are plenty of people with no friends already who'd prefer to be rich with no friends to their current situation. You don't think there are loads of creeps who heard the pussy-grabbing tape and were envious, rather than appalled? Who makes up the 38% supporting the guy? People who think a rich guy, ipso facto, would "drain the swamp" and run the government like a business. People who look at the grotesque photos of his Saddam-style condo and drool. People who look at photos of Uday and Qusay mugging with a dead lion they've just killed and think "Awesome!" Personally, I've despised the guy ever since I've been aware of him. His gold-plated lifestyle is transparently repellent. I was supposed to admire a guy because he had the *power* to fire Gary Busey on TV? Please. But that show *was* a hit. A sucker is born every minute, etc. As Shari points out, not a lot of them read this blog -- but they're there or we, as a nation, wouldn't be here.

    "Do you think that the Donald Trump story ... will lessen the allure of money, just the tiniest bit?" Nope, not among many of the folks who voted for him. All his flaws and problems are "fake news" to them. And the folks who see him for who he is already had a sounder attitude toward the allure of money, IMHO.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I will quote from the Buddhist philosophy of The Eight Winds: "Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds." The Writings of Nichiren Daishonen, vol. 1, p. 794

    ReplyDelete
  13. The one thing Donald Trump does very well is make the rest of us feel delighted to be us and not him.

    john

    ReplyDelete
  14. Trump's madness is not a symptom of wealth; it's merely exacerbated by the cushion and protection provided by a vast amount of money ( and the sycophants, lawyers it can buy).

    I imagine, without the millions, Trump probably would have ended up like Blagojevich. Busted and imprisoned through criminal attempts to enhance his wealth while trying to sell his image.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.