• Sona Chaturvedi

Let Them Eat Caviar


Marie Antoinette never actually said, "let them eat cake," but the vast income inequality that enraged the 18th-century French is now being experienced in 21st-century America.

Everyone is familiar with the infamous statement: “Let them eat cake.” 


The quote is attributed to Marie Antoinette, although the soon-to-be decapitated French queen never actually uttered those words. Rumors of her doing so, however, came to symbolize the decadence of an 18th-century royal family that displayed an absolute insensitivity to and incomprehension of the realities of life for the unfortunate.  


We are so beyond cake at this point in the United States and have delved into the world of caviar. Since the 1980s, the nation has experienced an unprecedented rate of wealth expansion, so much so that the top 1 percent is even jealous of the top 0.01 percent’s share, which reached 11 percent of the total by 2012, according to a study by two researchers at the University of California-Berkeley. During the current crisis, the wealthy have continued to increase their net worth, oblivious to the pain and suffering of the rest of the population.


In the span of three months, the U.S. has added 29 more billionaires, while at the same time 45.5 million people filed for unemployment, according to analyses from the Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies - Program on Inequality.


HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?


Distraction and complacency. We don't know exactly who to hold accountable, and if we did there would likely be a revolt, not unlike the one in which the Bolsheviks massacred the Romanoffs in Russia in 1917.


The powers that be know exactly how to distract us by focusing on all the things that appeal to our nature and need for belonging. We crush our beliefs in order to belong. We are no Groucho Marx, who famously stated, “I do not wish to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”


The current inequality defies imagination, as we celebrate the culture of the privileged, a club we desire to join, over our core values. This includes our worship of celebrities, the ultra-wealthy and their lifestyles.


No one has time to be angry when we are all trying to keep up the Joneses. Celebrities have no more intrinsic value than the rest of us. We are just made to believe they are somehow better, and no one knows this more than the celebrities themselves. All of this is a distraction to keep us from seeing the truth -- to keep us grasping for entry to an unattainable world  -- and ignore our actual circumstances.


In the late 18th century, the House of Bourbon flaunted their wealth in Versailles, while their subjects starved in the streets in nearby Paris. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's lack of awareness to the plight of their people stoked the French Revolution and ended their family's centuries-long grip on power. It also led to another infamous phrase borne of that time period.


Off with their heads.

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