|Max Key reflects on the class struggle.|
It's party time at the Prime Minister's mansion this weekend. Max Key is celebrating his 21st birthday and no expense has been spared. The homeless haven't been invited.
In 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story called 'The Rich Boy'. It contains this famous observation:
"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."
In a country that once prided itself on its apparent egalitarianism, values instilled in the post-war social democratic era, it was easy to ignore the wealthy. Indeed the rich did not like to flaunt their wealth. It was not considered socially appropriate to boast of one's prosperity and the rich generally tried to maintain some degree of anonymity.
Not so today. While the level of economic inequality continues to widen, and the Government tries to bribe the politically embarrassing homeless to leave Auckland, the wealthy like to flaunt what 'the market' has provided them. We live in a society where a mediocre right wing talkback host like Mike Hosking drives around in a Ferrari, in between lecturing the poor about being 'aspirational'.
This Friday the Prime Minister's son, Max, will be celebrating his 21st birthday at daddy's opulent Parnell mansion. He's expecting some 150 guests.
On Facebook Max Key writes that there will be "alcohol and shit yarns". He boasts that "a fuck load of alcohol" will be provided, gratis. He goes on to say that two buses, hired for the occasion,
will take his guests to an 'event' at a bar in the Britomart, where further entertainment - and more free booze - will be provided.
|F. Scott Fitzgerald|
Lurking in the shadows of The Great Gatsby is the 'spectre' of the working class. Fitzgerald describes one of the characters,Daisy Fay Buchanan, as appearing "gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor". In superbly economic use of language, Fitzgerald encapsulates the main theme of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto: there may be a constant conflict between classes, but the real struggle is on the part of the working class to free itself from the domination of the ruling class. The spectre that haunts the ruling class is the spectre of revolution.
At Jay Gatsby's party the wealthy are heard singing a popular tune of the 1920's, 'Ain't We Got Fun?'. It includes the lyrics: "the rich are getting richer / and the poor are getting children / ain 't we got fun?". They won't be singing this at Max Key's party, but only because it doesn't come with a thumping dance beat.