Isn't Rich Simpler?
by Andrei Codrescu
There is no end to instructive humiliation when you think that you’ve got it made.
Right after I got another office for my expanding small-press publishing empire, I was bouncing cheerily across the manicured greens of my neo-Georgian campus, twirling my impressive ring of keys. I ran into the university president, who was carrying the 50 extra pounds that came with his office and walked as if the broom of the legislature to which he answered was stuck firmly halfway up his behind. When he had been my colleague in the humanities, he had been not only lighter, but sprightlier.
“Look,” I said, twirling my keys faster, “I can barely remember all the offices I have.”
With a glint of malicious glee, he reached into his pocket, below the globe of his presidential belly, and extracted a single key. “I only have one,” he said.
I crashed into the green. Of course. Power was reductive. He only needed one key. Someone more powerful, the governor, let’s say, probably used no keys at all. Doors opened noiselessly before him. The invisible machinery of power worked quietly to keep the man’s life simple. He probably used no money either. Or credit cards. A simple flourish of his pen was sufficient.
The encounter set me thinking. The amassing of wealth and privilege has no other ostensible purpose than to simplify life. While the flunkies toil, the great man lies on the beach. If that were the case, wouldn’t one be already ahead of the game if one stayed poor and free?
I remembered my days of wine and roses. I had not a penny, but oodles of time. My memory presented me with a nostalgic photograph of a casual youth capable of picking up and leaving anytime, going anywhere, needing no more than a two-week job to go on a two-month vacation. My chosen profession, that of poet, required no more than a nub of pencil and a napkin.