Friday, January 20, 2006

Uh, Tim?

Noah writes:

I don't begrudge Orlean her delight in her new abode. But what possessed her to broadcast it to millions of New York Times readers? Yes, dozens of idiots do it in the Times "Home" section every year, but, perhaps naively, I've always expected journalists to show less inclination to flaunt privilege, especially when the privilege exists on this scale. Among other things, it puts the profession's habitual poor-mouthing in an especially unattractive light. And if we are to believe the growing body of evidence that the acquisition of real estate (especially in an overheated housing market) is somehow related to sex, then isn't showing the entire world your fabulous house a bit like opening your trench coat on Main Street when you've got nothing on underneath?

The main thing, though, is that an inclination to state forthrightly, "I have a gorgeous multimillion-dollar house in the country and you don't," calls severely into question the journalist's ability to identify with the ordinary people about whom one is called upon, at least once in a while, to write. The reverse (and entirely unearned) snobbery of Orlean's casual reference to "pointlessly huge" houses suggests that she maintains some shrunken vestige of this ability. But its true measure will be whether she woke up this morning feeling like a perfect ass.

Is it the "inclination to state forthrightly" or is it the, you know, owning of the damn thing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone their wealth, I just think that it's pretty damn hard for wealthy people to identify with "ordinary people." More to the point, the me of today can barely empathize with the me who was in the financial situation I was in 3 years ago, and that person could barely empathize with the one from 3 years before that, and that person 3 years before that, etc... I think we're capable of adjusting to new financial positions fairly quickly, but once we do we lose the ability to empathize with those in our previous situations quite quickly as well.