The spoiled, entitled attitude of America’s wealthy has been dubbed “affluenza.” The pseudo-term was used for the defense of Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old Texas boy who killed four people and severely injured two others as the result of a drunken joyride that occurred last summer. Although a ridiculous idea to found a court defense, the term does prove helpful in identifying other wealthy people who suffer from the same “disease.”
Yesterday, Texas district judge Jean Boyd, who has been presiding over Couch’s case, ruled out any jail time for the teen’s reckless and irresponsible crimes for a second time, instead handing him probation and ordering him to go to rehab center. Boyd had made a similar ruling last year because Couch’s defense was able to convince the judge that the defendant suffered from a psychological disorder colorfully named “affluenza.”
The psychologist who testified on behalf of the defense said that because Couch grew up rich and affluent, he possessed no sense of consequence, an effect of a “troubled upbringing in a wealthy family.” Essentially, according to the defense, Couch should be absolved of his actions because he didn’t know any better due to his being rich.
Couch should have been given the 20 years incarceration as demanded by the prosecution, but his family’s money saved him. Affluenza is definitely not a psychological condition, however, it’s safe to say that affluenza could be a correct way to label and identify the toxic attitudes of entitlement and invincibility often exuded by the mega-rich.
Billionaire chairman of Equity Group Investments Sam Zell greatly exuded the one percent’s self-victimization, and with the advent of the Occupy movement, the wealthy have increasingly played the “poor little me” card.
During an interview with Bloomberg TV, Zell was asked about venture capitalist Tom Perkins’ comparison of the perceived “persecution” of the one percent to the Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Third Reich. Zell agreed with Perkins’ message that the one percent were being unfairly singled out and criticized.
“The quote ‘one percent’ are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient,” said Zell. “This country should not talk about envy of the one percent. It should talk about emulating the one percent. The one percent work harder. The one percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”
Zell’s statement is wrong for several reasons.
The one percent are not being “pummeled” because of agendas or political convenience. They are getting criticized and spoken out against in the context of fairness. The country is not talking about envy, but fairness and lopsided government favoritism. The 99 percent are upset because such a small minority have virtual control of the government and can operate themselves with near impunity (see plutocracy).
Wall Street committed an extensive array of crimes that nearly destroyed our economy in 2008, but not a single CEO or upper-management employee was jailed or even arrested. Agree to a monetary settlement and carry on, creating an expensive “pay-to-play” system. This system manifests affluenza on a large scale because paying a settlement is a substitute for real justice. The wealthy know they can continue their crimes because they have the cash to bail themselves out of trouble.
Zell places the one percent on a pedestal when speaking about “emulation,” saying the one percent works harder and that the one percent “are much bigger factors in all forms of . . . society” than the 99 percent. Zell, speaking for the entire one percent, shows an insane doublethink where the one percent simultaneously think of themselves as god-like idols and victims to oppression.
Self-victimization of the rich is nothing new. With the rise of the Occupy movement, the wealthy have increasingly played their “poor little me” card. They have often made comparisons between the Occupy movement and the Third Reich. But these comparisons beg the question, if the one percent are the big factors upon which most of society depends, then how are they victims? The answer is that they aren’t victims.
The wealthy are simply realizing that the 99 percent will not relent because the issues concerning American plutocracy, income inequality, and a general special treatment of the wealthy are important because the issues heavily shape the social, political, and economic landscape of America. So far, the current shaping has been for the worst.
Affluenza is a disease, but not one of the mind. It’s a social sickness that infects the wealthy and affects the poor on a pandemic level. And like many diseases, there are distinguishable symptoms that help providing an accurate diagnosis. Symptoms of affluenza include: god-like sense of invincibility, lack of compassion and empathy, unrealistic worldviews, dangerous feeling of entitlement, and complete disregard of consequence.