We’ve discussed some of the finer points surrounding net worth and real billions on these pages before, but how does the amateur armchair anthropologist (ie. the alert reader) go about distinguishing the truly rich from the merely #hoodrich (ie. the pretenders) ? How can you spot the difference ? Let’s see if we can use some unnamed pro athletes to guide us on our quest :
The NBA legend had purchased enough fake watches to fill a large suitcase, [the salesman] Kevin boasted. But he was outdone by a Brooklyn Nets player, who, Kevin said, bought between 500 and 600. It was hard to believe that these three athletes would have a need for fake watches. But Azim said that there are people — some of them very wealthy — who go to men like Kevin to help them cultivate an illusion of generosity at a fraction of the price. Gardeners, housekeepers, and distant cousins outside China have no way of distinguishing real luxury items from fake ones.i
It takes little insight to realise that these dudes from the ‘hood who ever-so-publicly be reppin’ dat [insert three-digit area code here] want to give back to said ’s denizens, at the very least so that the repper’s treated to a triumphal parade after winning a national championship or so that they have a suitably tough-lookin’ posse in the background of their new music video depictin’ da streetz ware dey be cumin’ frum. Although it’s harder to imagine that da pro’s broseph be whisperin’ “Respice post te, hominem memento te” in dey ear as da parade winds along its single-street route, it’s less hard to imagine that – now as in Roman times – the cheers and roars of the appreciative crowd are bought and paid for. Nothing is for nothing, you know. And if “the people” can’t tell the difference between the steak their parents ate and the hamburger they’re eating, what’s to tip them off that their glitzy new Rolexx or Pattek was built by Orientals not Occidentals ? So bought the cheers will be! And for pennies on the dollar.
The alternative is known colloquially as “Fogettin’ ware u cum frum,” which very greedily and equally wrongly implies that the supremely gifted in society are not only eternally but also infinitely indebted to anyone they might have so much as sneezed on during their formative years. “Because how not ?,” begs the beggar, “How could Serena Williams or Kendrick Lamarii owe their professional success to themselves and themselves alone in a world where all lives matter ?”iii This is the crux of what can only be described as a raw deal all the way around. Essentially, in exchange for their success as “multi-millionaire” “slaves,” pop stars are
morally forcefully obligated to give it aaaaaall back not only to their ‘hood but also to the taxman and conmen that they’re too intellectually unequipped to avoid. They keep… none of it. In exchange for the glimmer and gold of the moment, they take home cerebral contusions. These are, for lack of a more astute comparison, our gladiators.
So they must be #hoodrich. They’ve no choice. Then, as now, they can never be full citizens. They might be able to afford to make payments for signs of conspicuous consumption but they can never own the goods outright for theycan never even own themselves. They can’t afford to replace a crashed car or a torched house (or a real Swiss timepiece) with cash from their own pockets and they can’t afford to shrug off the losses as another funny story with which to regale their friends. Those are priviledges of citizens and citizens alone.
And yet, in a hyperinflationary global regime where opportunity costs are nothing less than historic,iv it’s still not easy to tell us apart. Time separates the lemma from the palea, but that’s hardly the external indicator you were looking for – like the Jew’s big nose or the Chinaman’s flat face – is it ? Tough beans. If discernment were easy, everyone would do it. That no one can afford to pay straight-up CA$H for five- and six-figure luxury goods is really neither here nor there, even if the causes are vastly divergent.v We all make payments. We all finance. We all beg, borrow, and steal so that we can enjoy some modest trappings of a materialistic life in a world where materiality is increasingly incapable of keeping up with the digital.vi While it’s by now a trite CoSVismvii that software is eating the world, it’s what it is.
What replaces obvious signalling on the street is therefore either followers of the social mediocrity flavour or wryly applied bile and technical competency at ever-increasing levels.viii Tertium non datur. Not that you’re free to pick but the signalling becomes the question. It’s no longer “Who are you wearing?” but one of two immiscible alternatives : “How many followers do you have?” / “Who’s L1 are you in?” It’s entirely in the question that the truth is revealed.
Now, as ever.ix
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- Via CS. [↩]
- To pick but two recent American “success” stories who came from the ‘hood and rose to pop culture prominence. [↩]
- In the words of made man Vic Mensa :
This that crack music, nigga, you can blame Reagan
I’m Balmain’ing, without paying, y’all playing
We higher than a bitch, my bitch Himalayan
Suicide-ielago, that’s sacrificial lamb
I’m killa season Cam, no lives matter
No. Lives. Got it ? [↩]
- To quote an earlier piece from these very pages :
The invisible protesters took this opportunity to fuss quietly about “ongoing land theft”. Bitch, you signed the papers. That’s it. Fin de l’histoire. The thief crying thief is the oldest trick in the book and this “theft” construction is papier mache in this gimme-gimme downpour ; it’s melting like ice cream in the Arizona sun. The mere suggestion that a bunch of uncultured natives had anything stolen from them implies that they ever owned it – a claim they themselves would deny to their graves!! You understand this, don’t you ? Exactly like the derps who were “bitcoin rich” in 2011 yet are today still playing javabro at a hotdesking hub in Minnesota, the Canadian indians didn’t see anything particularly special about the treasure beneath their feet, so they gave it all up to the first white man offering coloured beads or alpaca socks. Because why the hell not ? It seemed like something for nothing!! A bargain they’re eager to renew now even though their once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in fact extended all the way down the genetic and historial trees until the present day and really ended up being closer to once-in-a-millennia opportunities. It’s just a shame, for them of course, that the human grasp of time is broadly speaking so miserable that anything further away than next week seems like someone else’s problem.
- The pro slaves because they’re living beyond their means and will soon be back where their parents started in the welfare line, and full citizens because we can’t afford to kick ourselves that hard in five years when ours “assets” lose 50+% of their “value” and the alternative is up 50x. Different causes, same effect. In the long-term, it’s not hard to see who wins, but you can see why it’s so hard to tease apart the two groups today. [↩]
- Just one salient example of how the physical is struggling to keep up with the digital is in the automotive industry. Remember how lulzy it was when Chevy advertised that their new Volt semi-electric car had
oneten million lines of code ? Fast-forward just five years and the new Conti GT has 100 million LOC. Real software is moving in the other direction, but the mass consumer shit is now all but lost down the rabbit hole of runaway complexity. [↩]
- Church of Silicon Valley. See Diamandis for just one example of their many anointed apostles. [↩]
- Access to veblen goods doesn’t hurt either. Any dork can buy a Bentley, but can you buy a Buran ? This type of signaling only works within the circles of the cognoscenti, obviously, but that just means that Men Of The People needn’t apply. [↩]
- So Schlomo and Yacov were sitting over falafel discussing the meaning of the cosmos. “Life,” said Schlomo, “is life a falafel ball.” Yacov considered, “So, why is life like a falafel ball?” “How should I know? What am I, a philosopher?” [↩]