What I learnt about inequality after spending time with some of
the richest people in the world Wealth has dehumanised them, and there's nothing they can do about it.
So what are the super-rich: are they bastards? Are they, as Hemingway put it,
just like us, but with "more money”? Are they going to save us? Destroy us? Are
they corporate psychopaths who've channelled their murderous impulses into
making money, not serial killing? Or are they lonely and needing love, but
trapped in a gilded cage of Bentleys and Lear Jets?
No, none of the above. I spent 6
months with them for a show I made for the BBC, called The Super-Rich and Us. I travelled to various castles and
penthouses all over the world. I was greeted by sportswear multi-millionaire Sir
Tom Hunter in his vast manicured grounds with “Hello! My favourite champagne
Socialist!” (a little more champagne and less socialist, thanks very much).
I went to The Dorchester to meet Wang Jianlin, China's richest
man, who pretends he doesn't understand English when he's bored. He was off to
see someone called Boris after me, who wants to flog him half of London, and
then some bloke called David, who runs the country. That's what happens when
you're worth a modest $21.4bn.
So what did I learn from spending so much time with the
super-wealthy? They're fast becoming a breed apart. And this isn't a lazy use of
the term "breed apart" - it's both biologically and psychologically accurate.
It's their self-willed destiny.
The super-rich believe that they're Masters Of The Universe,
and the facts seem to bear them out. They hold power in that quiet understated
way Sun Tzu defined as “the one who doesn't speak in a room. He's the one who
holds all the cards”.
This gives them something they can't help: an intolerance for weakness. Even the most self-avowed Bill Gatesian liberal and philanthropic billionaire, paying for libraries and vaccine programs in Africa, can't quite comprehend why everyone on earth isn't as determined to be as successful as they are. If they're not - goddamn it, I'm going to show them how. Sir Tom Hunter - Estimated
Net Worth of $2.13 billion
This go-getting, sink or swim mantra of the super-rich is
accepted by the Government. It's even taught in schools. But not everyone can be
an entrepreneur – it's the reason people across Europe have been marching.
They're not just protesting against austerity, but also reaffirming their
humanity. In Athens they chanted "we are human", as if the troika and super-rich
actually needed reminding.
What began as a global tribe simply making money has
transmuted into biological difference. The rich now live in their own
Elysium-style biosphere. It's a floating bubble high above earth, connecting
London to New York to Shanghai to Dubai via a chrome Business Class tube in the
Whether they're in their private jets, helicopters, or
penthouse suites, they occupy a space that mere mortals like us can only squint
at from street level. Their separation makes it easier for them to accept the
inequality of which they're a part - and puts them literally out of reach.
In this biosphere, they eat better food, go to better schools,
wear better clothes, take better medicine, and thus breed a cleaner, richer
tribe. They even breathe cleaner air. Several billionaires have their own mobile
air supplies, which are pumped into whatever home they've decided to stay at. If
you have a property in Shanghai, for example, being super-wealthy allows you to
avoid having the same smog-filled lungs as the rest of the city’s 14m
If you visit this Elysium, as I did,
you'll realise that inequality is not about money, but an idea of
wealth-engineered eugenics. In their minds, they are not only richer than the
rest of us, but also “better”.
Cont on page 2.....
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