I read a book by Chrystia Freeland called Plutocrats – The Rise Of The New Global Super-Rich And The Fall Of Everyone Else. I was interested in the subject because I saw parallels to my Swamp War articles and several ideas I had swimming around in my head.
What are Plutocrats? They are the extremely wealthy class who (supposedly) rule and influence the world based on their wealth. Unlike plutocrats of the past who inherited the wealth, most of today’s plutocrats are self-made millionaires and billionaires, coming from ordinary backgrounds.
Why is it important that women understand Plutocrats?
Because as a society we measure success by wealth and because so few plutocrats are women. Chrystia writes “Consider the 2012 Forbes billionaire list. Just 104 of the 1,226 billionaires are women.” (8%) “Subtract the wives, daughters and widows and you are left with a fraction of that already small number.”
To make matters worse, the biggest gap in society is not between the 1 percent and the 99 percent – it is between the 1 percent and the all-male boys club of the wealthiest 0.1 percent. The 0.1 percent has amassed their enormous fortunes as businessmen “who see themselves as deserving victors in a cutthroat international competition.”
Even as women have surpassed men in education and dominate the middle-class, they still work for the male elite at the very top. Women who fill out and even surpass men in the middle class still remain second class businesspeople.
Top plutocrats have no female peers. They have no concept of women as their equals. They lived in the Blue Zone rising to the top battling against other men. Chrystia writes that the plutocracy “still lives in the Mad Men era and family life becomes more patriarchal the richer you get. In 2005, just over a quarter of the taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent had a working spouse. For the 1 percent, the figure was higher, at 38 percent, but significantly lower than the country as a whole.”
Who do plutocrats marry? Not their secretaries! They marry intelligent, well educated women who have educational backgrounds similar to their own. But, even with these elite educational backgrounds, wives of plutocrats don’t pursue their own careers. Instead they manage charitable foundations and pursue more traditional interests. “If your husband is earning $10 million a year, choosing the treadmill of billable hours is really bizarre.”
Chrystia writes “My suspicion is that most plutocrats privately believe women don’t make it to the top because something is missing.” She writes about one unguarded remark made by a private equity billionaire “The problem, he said, wasn’t that women weren’t as smart or even as numerate as men; he had hired many women in starting positions who were as skilled as their male counterparts. But they still didn’t have the royal jelly: ‘They don’t have the killer instinct, they don’t want to fight, they won’t go for the jugular.’”
Is he right? Chrystia gives us a lot to think about. Are you willing to be cutthroat at work in order to get ahead? Or, if your husband makes millions of dollars a year, would you continue to work or would you pursue other interests instead? No matter how well educated women become, will we ever reach parity with men and achieve “elite status” on their own?
It looks pretty discouraging so, let’s change our perspective a bit. When I was young we were asked the question, “If you could only have one, would you rather have money or power?” The question used to generate long discussions and debate. Have we changed our perception of the question and now believe that you can’t have power without money? Do men strive for money just so they can have power?
Remember the line from the movie Gladiator “Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome.” The movie stresses “the power of the mob” in determining power. Whoever has the mob behind him has the power. Money doesn’t produce power, supporters give you power.
As women who are having success in the middle class, we need to think about that. What power does our domination in the middle class give us? Should we stop chasing after money and elite status (chasing men up blue zone silos) and start using the power that doesn’t rely on money but relies on leading the majority of people?
There are two things happening in the world. First the plutocrats are elevating themselves further away from normal people and forming their own community, a community where nationality is not a factor. Samuel Huntington invented the term “The Davos Man” to describe the people who “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the élite’s global operations”. Plutocrats are separating themselves from thousands of years of history and culture.
Many people find this a cause for concern because they believe the plutocrats will work amongst themselves to manipulate and control systems globally only to enrich themselves further.
But, the second thing that is happening is that normal people are connecting more (even globally) and making their voices heard. It is increasingly difficult to keep people in ignorance and manipulate them. Women with their domination of middle class have the opportunity to find our power and keep the plutocracy in check. (I will address this more in a future article about Facebook)
What we need to do is stop identifying success and power through a Blue Zone perspective. Let’s look at it from the Purple Zone where we can unite the middle class and balance the power of the plutocracy.
As Chrystia gave a greater description of plutocrats, I started thinking how top plutocrats didn’t act as Blue Zone as I expected once they reached the top. They didn’t act like lone alpha wolves. They don’t remain segregated from each other constantly fighting amongst themselves for territory or ultimate supreme alpha status. They form charitable foundations to which most are going to leave the vast amount of their wealth to (and not their children).
This made me wonder that if plutocrats once they rise to the top of their blue silos ask “What else is out there?” And in doing so for the first time change their perspective and see the Purple Zone?
I wonder if as they go towards the Purple Zone, do they believe that they are entering a new frontier? Do they think of themselves as Christopher Columbus setting out across an unknown and uncharted ocean, exploring places no man has been before?
I find this a humorous thought. They may be going where no man has gone before but what will they find when they get there, when they get to the Purple Zone?
Women. Lots of smart, educated, truly successful women who have a strong sense of themselves.
Women who stand there, looking at the newly arrived men and ask “What took you so long to get here?!”
They will encounter women on whom their Blue Zone cutthroat tactics don’t work because these women know how to use their female qualities.
They will find women who have power in the Purple Zone and aren’t about to hand it over to men, no matter how rich the men are.
In time will we discover that the plutocrats instead of leading society really took a long detour off course to the stratosphere? Will they have made a critical mistake by disconnecting themselves from the majority of people and by doing so ultimately lose power? While they are living in their disconnected elite community will women find their true power and learn to unite and lead the majority of people?
Let me know your thoughts – leave a comment
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