entirely foolish and entirely wise
September 8, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: , ,


I have an uncle who said, curiously, that he wanted to die poor.  Materially poor, which he did, but we suspect he died rich in other ways.

The Victorian writer John Ruskin set down some observations on the different characteristics of rich and poor below.  In his view, the rich have hedging characteristics:  they are sure and unthinking etc “generally speaking.”  The poor, on the other hand go headlong into their roles:  “entirely foolish … entirely wise.”

This is our accepted generalizing narrative about class in our time:  the hedging rich find it hard to fully live; and the committed poor are all in.

From Ruskin’s essay:

The persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive and ignorant.  The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief and the entirely merciful just and godly person.

Unto This Last (1862), John Ruskin

very, very important and very, very glamorous
June 10, 2008, 3:33 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Lewis Lapham writes about the nomad and the settled.  The nomad thinks about himself and not much else; the settled develops systems of thought and begins to see beyond himself.  When they travel, the idle rich are like nomads:  they have a vague stupid apprehension of the world around them.

“If he can afford the price of the ticket, the nomad comes and goes with the seasons of his desire.  He has neither the time nor the inclination to think very much about the people standing by the wayside.  The settled townsman makes art, science and law; of necessity he must understand something other than himself.  The nomad merely gathers together his tent, his music and his animals, and wanders over the mountain in search of next year’s greening of America.

Transported from place to place at high speeds, suspended in a state of dynamic passivity, the American equestrian classes devote themselves to questions of technique and the relief of boredom.  They can concentrate their attention on the logistics of going to Pasedena for the Super Bowl or to Japan for the cherry blossoms, or the ceaseless repetition of gossip and description of scene.  But when, after prodigious labor, they find themselves on the fifty-yard line or standing under the trees in Kyoto, they can think of nothing to say.  They have no idea of what any of it means, only that it is there and somehow very, very important, or very, very glamorous or very, very sad.”

Lewis Lapham, Money and Class in America