Opinion

The rich really are different, but not in a good way

19 September 2017 - 06:42
FEAT OF ENDURANCE Being rich can be so exhausting. Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the 2006 historical drama film Picture: Columbia Pictures
FEAT OF ENDURANCE Being rich can be so exhausting. Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the 2006 historical drama film Picture: Columbia Pictures

The noonday heat has passed. It is time for the Rich to leave his cave.

All morning he has fretted, wandering listlessly through its caverns and corridors; past the bronze sculpture of the cheetah; through the Versailles-themed second lounge; down the marble staircase loomed over by a 15m-high portrait of a proud African woman; out on to the balcony to glare gloomily at passing Poors.

He doesn't usually mind the Poors. They add background colour to the Best Life he is living and remind him of how cleverly he has invested the fortune his parents left him.

Today, however, the Poors have made him anxious. Three times he has gone to the intercom in the games room and asked the Poors in the guardhouse if everything is okay. Yes, they have told him, all is fine. But these are people who think that driving a 10-year-old Toyota Conquest is fine. He has not been reassured.

Entitlement, fear and resentment produce surreal forms of selfishness.

Luckily, it is time to head to the watering hole.

He has two to choose from. Usually he likes the one down at the beach because, like his burrow, it is made of glass, steel, marble and the despair of people with taste. He knows that it will be full of the happy chatter of other Riches and the comforting vip-vip-vip of thighs in cycling shorts. It is, he admits, his natural habitat.

Today, though, he needs a change of scene. A touch of Provence. Quaint pastries sold at 450% mark-ups. A place where a Rich can gaze out of the window at urban, bohemian Less Riches and marvel at how earthy it must be to have a job.

There's a lovely long table, he knows, where you can sit and read magazines. Just last week he read a beautiful article about a designer celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Krugerrand by making a silk scarf covered with pictures of Krugerrands. The photos showed a proud African woman wearing the scarf as a "homage to South African heritage". It was helluva vibrant, and made him really happy how everyone has moved on from the bad parts of South African history, like sanctions and that.

I'm not joking about the article, or the long table. They're real. This specific Rich, however, is an amalgam of many Riches. But they're real, too. I see them, every time I go to that coffee shop to work.

I go there for the table. It is rare in Cape Town to find a place with a goodly length of timber, fine coffee and staff that ignore you for hours.

Increasingly, however, I've found that the Riches are worth the price of admission, as compelling as any game drive.

I don't mean the common-or-garden assholery of Riches, like when they just stop the Range Rover in the road and get out, as if expecting a liveried footman to move it closer to the pavement. I don't even mean their resolute refusal to say please or thank you to waiters.

No, what fascinates me is a compelling combination of entitlement, fear and resentment that is so intense and focused that it produces surreal forms of selfishness.

Like handbags that need their own chair.

I'm not joking about this, either. I've seen human beings turned away from the communal table because Riches refused to hang their handbags over the back of their chair.

Then again, perhaps it's the language barrier. English and Rich are completely different languages and it's possible Riches literally didn't understand the problem. Ask them: "Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?" and they are likely to hear: "God is dead and now Poors are going to eat everything you own."

I know I shouldn't stare. I know that there but for not having a trust fund, go I. But the sheer expansiveness of Riches in their natural habitat is hypnotic. It's like watching a small, aggressively tanned black hole in active-wear gobble up a galaxy. I can't look away.

Meanwhile, the solitary Rich has become uncomfortable: a tall, hairy man with a laptop is staring at him and ruining the Provençal vibe. Ugh, he thinks as he rises to leave: this is what happens when you let people vote.

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