Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

What the hell is the matter with people? We're in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans are unemployed, losing their homes, without health insurance. So in a statement on par with Marie Antoinette's famous edict about the lower classes, Victoria's Secret gives us the....ta da....multi-million dollar bra.

Two and a half million to be exact. This year's Fantasy Bra contains 142 carats of white and yellow diamonds along with other precious stones. It will be worn by Australian supermodel, Miranda Kerr, in the Victoria's Secret Christmas Dreams and Fantasies catalog and in the Victoria's Secret fashion show.

In a gesture toward the realities of  economic life in 2011, this year's $2 1/2 million is sharply lower than the value of the fantasy underwear of previous seasons, several million dollars less, in fact.

And granted, no one has ever bought any of Victoria's precious gem-laden undies. I read that they are taken apart and presumably, recycled. Re-cycling, now that's a good thing in an era of austerity.

But, still, isn't this just the ultimate thumbing-your-nose response to the Occupy Wall Street types who are livid about how the one-percenters are living large at the expense of Americans on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder? "Let Them Wear Diamonds!" We are furious about failing schools and crumbling infrastructure and higher gas prices and under-handed mortgage bankers and corrupt politicians but maybe they can draw our attention away from all those petty concerns as we stand in slack-jawed admiration of a multi-million dollar, diamond-bedecked bra.

It has always been so. The affluent over-reach. As long as the mortgage holders and the investment bankers and the CEO's (who are the counterparts of the gentry of pre-revolutionary France) are willing to maintain their lavish lifestyles while still sharing some of the goodies with the middle and lower classes, we are satisfied to let them have their way with us. We don't even ask for a lot - a job, a house, a car, decent schools for our kids - but as always, in the end, they want it all.

NO, to higher taxes even though many of them got rich or richer on the supposedly onerous taxes of Bill Clinton (and even as they boo-hoo about the deficit). NO, to giving up any tax subsidies for corporations, like the oil companies, that are already swimming in excess profits. NO, to regulations, old or new, although the mining companies, the oil companies, the banks, the utilities, the insurance companies,  the pharmaceuticals have proven over and over that safety for workers or fairness for customers is waaay far down on the list of their priorities without a governmental watch dog overseeing them. NO, to the the very idea that perhaps they should be just slightly more loyal to America and Americans by not shipping their jobs to nor buying their resources from repressive nations like China.

Instead, we get a freakin' $2.5 million bra. Aw, ain't it cute? Makes me forget all about my pending foreclosure. Not!

I don't expect them to take us seriously because they never do. In brutal regimes, despots end up like Moammar Khadaffi, beaten and shot by people who've had all they can take.

We are much more polite here. Our leaders will dismiss the protestors or convince the media to do it for them ("spoiled lazy kids, dirty hippies, trashy lowlifes, druggies, sex in the park, etc, etc.")  Oh, sure the police will arrest some to show them whose boss but they won't be tortured. Some local governments will deny them licenses to assemble and/or march. The Establishment will join hands to protect the status quo.

They'll close their eyes and hope we just fade away - the union workers who staged the sit-ins in the Wisconsin Statehouse, the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement, the blog-writers, the foreclosed, the unemployed, the uninsured, the students burdened with loans that will take half a lifetime to pay off.

"Look, here," they'll say, "look how the pretty diamond bra shines and sparkles."

Let them eat cake.

The only thing it won't occur to them to do is look for real answers, not if it means giving up even the tiniest portion of what they believe is theirs by divine right. If we want it, we'll have to take it - at the ballot box, via boycotts and sit-ins and strikes, by words written and shouted, with songs and tweets and posts and signs.

We have different slogans and some of us are more, um, graphic than others.

But in the end, it all boils down to wanting the same things - homes, jobs, healthcare, decent futures for our children.

I say, let the revolution begin.