In the playground of the rich, wealth flaunting is a sport

There is an elite new rich club on the party scene in New Zealand. They are calling themselves the Fulltimer Society and, as much as I can gather, this club of young people is a hybrid of The YaYa Club, another more well-known rich society with a higher profile and membership. The Fulltimer Society was founded by 17 young men who may not all be from wealthy backgrounds but an affluent “life-style” is certainly what they are selling. As the NZ Herald reported the founders of the Fulltime Society have “created a business from partying”. Their membership includes Max Key, who happens to be the son of our millionaire PM John Key. In a piece entitled  “Auckland’s extravagant, young, elite society you need to know about,” journalist Beatrice Hazlehurst spoke to the founder of the  Fulltimer Society, Vicktor Green. She writes,

They united/were recruited if they had A) ever modelled or B) were widely connected in the nouveau-riche Auckland social scene – the latter applying to the likes of the Prime Minister’s son, Fulltimer Max Key.

Members of the Fulltimer Society get drunk in bars at Auckland’s Viaduct and pretend to be entrepreneurs (hey man, they organise events and shit) and urge young white girls holding champagne glasses to kiss each other for the camera, as if being born lesbian or bisexual is some kind of fashionable fad that gains you popularity instead of the typically more common social exclusion, discrimination and sometimes bodily harm. People who criticise their pursuits are labelled as having “tall poppy syndrome,” a term used to describe the cutting down and criticising of people of merit who, because of their talents or achievements, are elevated above the rest of us. Beatrice writes,

[Green] blames the “haters” on kind of exacerbated tall poppy syndrome – suggesting the critics are made up of those that would never be accepted into the Fulltimers ranks themselves, so they resort to taking the club down a peg – an “if you can’t join ’em beat ’em” mentality.

“Tall poppy syndrome”? Not. So. Much.

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Girls at an event hosted by the Fulltimer Society. Photo / Facebook

It is more an unbridled and growing discontent and frustration at this kind of wealth flaunting (whether perceived or real) in a country where 260,000 children are living in poverty and where upward mobility is nearly impossible to access for the growing working class – especially, for Maori and Pacific Islanders who are acutely affected by poverty. The knowledge there is plenty of wealth to go around stings: we can see it, but unfortunately this wealth is more and more concentrated in the hands of a few who will hoard and guard this money and the assets which come with it, until the day they fucking die. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, wrote earlier this year, “the combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked.”

It’s just, this all feels utterly fucking unfair? Like something is really rotten at the core of this once so-called great egalitarian country that has become a vastly divided society of “haves and have nots.” It’s become a place where Max Key can D.J (just like Paris Hilton) at glittering parties for members of a club that promotes itself as some kind of elite rich-kid society (as if what clubs like these “do” has anything to do with culture), and play shitty remixes of pop-songs, then post a viral video of his luxurious holiday in Hawaii with his blue eyed, blonde haired model girlfriend hanging off his arm. While many families could not afford the rising electricity prices to run a heater during the dead-cold chills of winter and where a young child died last year due to respiratory failure that the coroner attributed, in part, to the cold, damp mould-ridden state house she was living in. This kind of disparity in regards to the quality of life people can and cannot access is palpable.

As the political underclass struggles daily to gain economic stability, we are told we just need to “work harder;” this statement is usually accompanied with a good dose of poverty shaming. Herein lies the myth we have been sold as truth: that somehow rich people, such as John Key, worked really hard for his millions and possess special skills and an intelligence, implying we do not. This myth is better known as the Self-Attribution Fallacy, wherein rich people credit their successes with outcomes for which they weren’t responsible. In other words: when rich people pat themselves on the back for all their successes in life they are kind of full of fucking shit. George Monbiot writes in the Guardian,

Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

Getting rich and remaining wealthy has little to do with skill and much more to do with luck and having what it takes to break the backs of the working and lower classes as they stomp their way up to the top. Or like Max Key rich young people inherit a bunch of money and the privileges which go with it and somehow think this makes them special; as if they possess superpowers we do not.  When I talked to a friend who is a law student at Auckland University, he pointed out in regards to accruing wealth by luck and at the expense of others:

Prime Minister John Key, who was a Wall Street banker, did not produce any useful good or service. He just bought and sold currencies at the right time to make a huge profit. Currency speculation is a very useless industry which leads to huge riches for some but economic chaos and uncertainty for others. For example international currency speculation helped lead to the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

John Key was appointed the head of the Asian foreign exchange in Singapore in 1995 and during the staggering losses of the 1998 Russian financial crisis he oversaw the sacking of hundreds of employees. Key was nicknamed by co-workers as “the smiling assassin” in response to his “cheery” disposition while telling people they no longer had job.

Out of crisis and chaos there will always be an elite few who rise from the ashes of destruction by grinding their heels into the necks of others, eventually benefiting from the economic disasters around them.

One of Max Key’s stated goals in life is to turn his father’s millions into billions and, if Max has inherited his father’s ruthlessness and utter disregard for the welfare of others–evident in John Key’s overseeing of callous state welfare reforms by National MP Paula Bennett, and his cuts to public spending–no doubt Max who is studying finance, accounting and property at Auckland University, will accomplish this goal. The Key dynasty will be born.

I understand these young people who start-up these elite clubs are just responding to our times; they aren’t just some aberration.

Collectively, we have been taught money means status, and status (often defined by a ruthless exploitation of others and the acquiring of ludicrous amounts of money) means power; it so often seems that to these people, the pursuit of power and the need to “have it all” at the expense of millions of others, is far more important than building a sense of community or looking out for one another. We prize psychopathy over empathy and compassion within our dominate systems.

This is the perverse logic of neoliberalism and a constraining economic model that serves only the elite rich at the expense of our planet and the majority of people living on it.

There will always be very real, sometimes deadly, casualties in the pursuit of “personal freedom” and “choice.” Neoliberalism was the promise that once free from state “interference” our lives would become better and we would have more autonomy, and this would be a good thing. For example: once state welfare is abolished people would be forced to find work, and thus, if they can’t find jobs they will then be pushed to create new work opportunities and jobs for themselves out of necessity. The unemployed will not become unwitting victims of the “welfare-trap” because, simply, that safety net would no longer exist.

What has resulted though, is not more choice for the majority of us, nor more “freedoms,” but the illusion of choice, or what I prefer to call “constricted choice,” and therefore less [economic] freedom. When short sighted governments slash state welfare they often push people further into crippling poverty; you may avoid creating “victims” of the “welfare trap,” but instead “victims” of neoliberalism are created.

So when I read about Max Key, who benefits from neoliberal policies, going on luxurious holidays and having endless leisure time to pursue his passions such as DJing and going on holidays most of us can only dream of, I am reminded of my own “restricted choice”…  .

As a low paid service worker I can either pick one shitty, meaningless and low-paid bar job or I can pick another shitty, meaningless and low-paid bar job that may have some extra benefits such as sick pay, eventually.

A more extreme example of what “constricted choice” looks like I learned about when I told a writer friend in America who is currently working at a supermarket as a low wage earner about my ideas around the realities of “constricted choice.” He told me:

“I’m joining the military soon because I feel like I am not doing anything with my life and there is a lot of tension at home. Essentially, for me, It’s either the military or homelessness. However I am looking at the bright side: I can get paid and travel, but I could get placed somewhere shitty and if we invade some place I could end up getting shot at.”

For many people, limited options force them to consider and often take work or career paths which are not only limiting and depressing, but also dangerous, if not deadly.

Being rich doesn’t just buy you pretty things, it also buys you an abundance of choice; it buys you leisure time to pursue whatever it is that brings you joy and fulfilment, and a sense of well-being. Even if this “fulfilment” is found in organizing booze drenched parties at fancy bars geared at the upper classes, it also buys you time to spend with the people you love and care for. It buys you the time and space to develop and pursue your passions whether that be music, drawing, writing, dance, whatever; these are all things which develop and add to culture.

The cost of being poor is not just the denial of basic necessities like a heater in winter to stay warm or a dry and warm house to live in, it is also the loss of sleep because you are working some shit low paid job which means working harder and longer hours to stay afloat, thus you have less or no time to relax and rest. If you stop to catch your breath or take a day off from whatever menial job you are working, to gather yourself and catch up on sleep, it means forgoing rent (risking becoming homeless) or buying less, or no food the following week. If you are economically poor, you are typically also likely to be “time poor.”

This is the bottom line for so many people who are struggling to stay afloat in a rich world:

in a country where there is an abundance of money and resources to go around, an elite selfish and callous few are refusing to share. For a few to prosper many must suffer.

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Postscript:

Kia ora all! I am freelancing which means I have no secure income so, I rely on donations from the wider public to keep myself economically afloat. If you like what I have to say and want to support me, you can make a direct contribution via my bank account:

Name: MISS C A KING

Bank Details: 12-3040-0580277-01


16 thoughts on “In the playground of the rich, wealth flaunting is a sport

  1. if they think this is summer paradise, they are totally mislead. I am the most elitist person in the planet, I dont care for diamonds (crass, vulgar things), waltzing around marble edifices made for bimbos and self indulgent arrogant men, or elitism based on cash and pedigree. There is a whole more satisfying, edifying world out there that studies history, art, humanity, literature, and all the wonderful things created by those who use their minds for the benefit and peacefulness of humankind. We need more of those that care for the planet, not the exploiters who think because they can spend, spend, spend their lives away at the expense of every thing or everybody else.

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  2. So much snarky butthurt in one post…

    This basically reads that you are jealous of Max Key and the fetishised lifestyle you purport he has. Comparing Max against the ‘daily grind’ of less well off people in New Zealand (including yourself, hence the envy) is not an indication of responsibility or fault.

    Rich people exist, poor people exist. Crying about all the nice things (if that’s your taste) Max enjoys won’t change that – sharing bottles of Moet and giving rides in Audis only goes so far for people that are struggling.

    Rather, we need to fix our housing market so that our most vulnerable have something better than the cold draughty houses they’re stuck in, and improve education so that everyone has a shot of studying finance at uni.

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    1. issue is National slashed spending in public schools preferring to put that money into private schools, which mainly only have kids from wealthy families going to them. His government also axed student loans at post grad level making it even harder, if you come from poverty, to obtained higher education. The ongoing austerity measures by this government and previous ones are forcing young people to take any work no matter how low paid and depressing, and then they are told they deserve everything they don’t get. Wages have remained stangant while living costs are rising, daily. Auckland home earners earn more from rising house prices than the average worker. Yes rich and poor do exist and imagine a world where the super wealthy shared their wealth. Where wages meet rising living costs, where no matter how vulnerable you where as a person you could get support from the state. Not all of us have rich parents to fall back on when we run into hard and bad luck or become to sick to work.

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      1. I’ve just had a look at your other work and your Twitter feed and concluded there’s little we would agree upon, but notice that you’re angry at National (okay, fair enough, I didn’t vote for them either) and then linking it to the PM’s son. Max didn’t remove decadent subsidies to doctoral students, nor does his overseas holiday push up living costs back home.

        Also, commas and line breaks are your friends, and Twitter posts like ‘eat the rich’ discredit your well-written works by making you sound bitter and dense.

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      2. Max is a symbol/example of the super affulent who benefit from a brutal system that disenfranchises the growing majority of us. I did not attack him personslly, I attacked the system he happily benefits from. He doesn’t speak out against it, he laps it up. You can say I sound bitter, but many people say otherwise, Sometimes raising the voices of the political underclass is liberating. #EatTheRich is a term coined by the Occupy movement it now has albeit, a short political history with a powerful context.

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    2. So the solution is for everyone to study finance? It’s idiots with MBAs who have wrecked the joint. Why on earth should Chloe be jealous of them. Criticism of the flaunted inequality of our society has buggerall to do with butt hurt.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah exactly Ovicula, as much as I can feel depressed, anxious and at times unhappy because I am struggling, in many ways I have no regrets I undertook degrees in teaching and visual arts. And that I am an activist, unionist and writer as I am proud of the path I have carved out and my connection to community. I hope when I look back on my life I can say I tried very hard to make this world a bit more bearable for the coming generations.

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  3. I totally support chloeanneking’s take on little rich kids and their self-indulgence. I have absolutely NO jealousy of said little rich kids because children who are raised by loving and compassionate parents have little interest in behaving the way she describes. If you’ve ever known children from wealthy families, you will find out they’re generally raised by servants, and if they’re lucky consistently by one or two servants, but generally servants come and go. It is one way to perpetuate the sociopathic behavior of their parents — their brains do not develop properly, they do not learn empathy or consequences, and all too often they end up in rehab or worse.

    Yes, it is sociopathic to deny basic needs to the general population. Anyone with a functioning brain understands it is in ALL our best interests to make sure people are warm, fed, housed, medical needs cared for, and educated.

    Eat the Rich wasn’t coined by Occupy, chloe, it was written all over buildings in the East Village of New York City in the 1980s. I don’t have a lot of respect for Al Franken (a comedian turned U.S. senator, all of whom are war criminals), but I liked what he said about class warfare being when you roast your feudal lord in his fireplace and force his wife to take a bite (the roasting idea sounds appealing, the forcing of the wife not), something that actually happened somewhere in Europe in the past. Critiquing the greedy class which never ever has enough is not equivalent to roasting them in the fireplace.

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  4. Sobering stuff. Especially as a part of me beckons for “that life”. Part of the coercive reality of constricted choice. So much easier to just give in.,hey? Thanks for the timely intervention.

    Liked by 1 person

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