Friday, June 15, 2018

Conspicuous Ostentation

Rolls-Royce's Flying Lady (Rundvald)
Is anyone who buys a Rolls Royce or a Bentley an asshole.? William Burden, the financier, used to travel around Manhattan in a Rolls with his initials on the license plate, while Mike Nichols had a Mercedes whose license read "anomie." Thorston Veblen coined the turn “conspicuous consumption.” But this is a kind of "conspicuous ostentation" and some might say that Nichols was more culpable since he wanted his cake and eat it too. He was rich and talented which gave him license, one would suppose, to vaunt his superiority over others. Of course the possession of anything of value could be disparaged, from a nice house to a painting, but there are those who possess things for show and those of great means who do everything in their power to avoid the jealous eyes of others.There are fabulously wealthy individuals you have never heard of and then there was the story of the legal secretary who accumulated a fortune by simply executing the same stock trades as her bosses ("96-Year-Old Secretary Quietly Amasses Fortune, Then Donates $8.2 Million,"NYT, 5/6/18) No one ever knew she had money until she died and she left a good part of her estate to the Henry Street Settlement. But back to the flashers? What explains the desire? Is it the peacock strutting its feathers in mating season? Is it a statement of the wish to dominate and intimidate others? Will Mr or Ms. Rolls or Bentley get their way? By the way Mercedes Anomie would be a cool name for someone who was seeking to reinvent him or herself, no? Of course Mike Nichols and William Burden are both dead and perhaps Shelley’s "Ozymandias" provides the most fitting epitaph for their cars, “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

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