Sunday, 25 March 2007

Plutocrat’s paper

The Sunday Times has long since ceased to be a serious newspaper and has been fighting OK! and Hello! for the position of house journal to the rich and famous, but although it has its quota of stories about mere celebrities, its real concern is with the very, very rich. It has a large staff producing an annual Rich List, with spin-offs, and every issue of the paper has some lip-smacking revelations about the lives of those who, they say, “make your average multi-millionaire feel like a church mouse”.

This sort of thing may have begun to pall on the not-quite-so-rich, or even on the not-rich-at-all, and the paper’s circulation has dropped by 10% in the last twelve months; it could be a sign of desperation that today’s issue provides an additional colour supplement which is essentially a paean to serious affluence and those who have it. It is called Power Play.

There is a little bit of perfunctory tut-tutting (“High-maintenance high-rollers are leaving the rest of us paupered”) but mostly this is an approving—even awed—look at the unimaginably wealthy:
"Six millionaires head for the stars… the unstoppable urge to give it away… preview of a playboy’s floating mansion… a remarkable snapshot of Britain’s young rich… want to beat gridlock? A helipad is the latest answer… philanthropy is rife among the rich… symbols of the lux life… people who have money now get the respect normally reserved for the aristocracy…" And so drivelling on, and on.

The circulation of the Sunday Times in February was 1,245,483, so it must have at least a million readers who, though not actually on the breadline, are unlikely ever to collect the possessions and participate in the activities so breathlessly described. To avoid the risk of the envy of these unfortunates turning to rancour, there are a few suggestions in the supplement that life is not always peachy up there: “Living with unfeasible wealth requires sacrifice… we feel guilty about having too much… status anxiety at the top…

So that’s all right then: we can enjoy contemplating the dream while being thankful that our relative poverty protects us from at least some kinds of unhappiness.

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