I haven’t heard much from the Occupy Movement lately. I assume many of us are still committed to confronting the astounding inequities in the American economic system, but maybe we’ve run out of good ammo to fire in the battle. As an encouragement to reignite the fires of indignation over the awful chasm between the haves and the have-nots, I recently gleaned some stunning insights into how “the other one percent lives” that might be useful in resurrecting the arguments against greed and on behalf of those who have very little.
These tidbits all come from articles in the Business Section of the December 13, 2015 New York Times.From an article entitled, “Trading the Silver Tray for an iPad” (about the new challenges facing butlers today–I naively thought butlers went out with Victorian England–silly me!). The article pointed out that “butler” is an outdated term, replaced in the digital age with the title “household manager.” Household managers are still expected to pamper their bosses, but they’re also expected to know how to set up a secure wireless network, sync an iPad or use a Crestron or Savant. One employee recently spent an hour troubleshooting a giant TV screen that refused to descend from the ceiling on demand. Another worked in a home with so many motherboards and servers in the basement that the wiring looked like colorful columns along the walls. So many of the systems in that home proved recalcitrant that it all had to be replaced barely a year after it was first installed. Cost: $500,000. (I’ve been waiting months now until I can afford a new stylus for my 30-year old turntable.) How much do these new age “butlers” get paid for all their knowledge and services? Some make as much as $150,000 a year. I was really feeling the gap as I absorbed those numbers.
Then I moved on to a story about noise in New York City. Having just moved to a row house in a small Pennsylvania city, I understand the noise problem. (The children next door recently acquired a mysterious object that makes an incredible racket as it ratchets across the floor, for hours at a time. I won’t even get into how loud the pitbull puppy now barks.) As the article (“The Silent Treatment”) makes clear, people will go to extremes to render their apartment quieter…some have pipes and ducts wrapped, walls and ceilings hung on vibration-absorbing rails and floors mounted on flotation devices to prevent sounds from reaching them. Again, I sympathize with those assaulted by noise, but most of us have only two choices: move out or live with it. The folks in the article, on the other hand, had the resources to hire an acoustical consultant for thousands of dollars, and then shelled out anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 to banish the noise for good. The only option we have (which we have not yet utilized) would be to ask our neighbors whether there’s any chance the “toy” could be rolled a little less or the dog could be trained not to bark every time it sees us walk out the back door.
What makes this trivia interesting to me is that it takes me inside the homes of the wealthy for a glimpse at their lifestyle that they normally prevent the 99% from even glimpsing. It doesn’t tell me if they have any concern for those who can’t even dream of such expenditures, those who spend all of their time just trying to keep it together and avoid falling through the cracks. If any Occupiers want to put any of these details on a sign for their next demonstration, they’re welcome to them.