[This essay is part of the ZNet Classics series. Three times a week we will re-post an article that we think is of timeless importance. This one was first published April, 2002.]
Hello, I’m Mrs. Geoffrey. I’m writing to you from my obscenely expensive townhouse in Houston. It’s April and the birds are chirping. Spring is in the air. Yet I feel quite sad. A newspaper, with an article about a quarter of a million anti-capitalist protestors in Barcelona, falls from my lap to the expensive hardwood floors covered by a hand-woven rug from Persia, costing a mere $100,000. These dreadful, potentially violent, peace protestors were screaming sickening things like Â“Eat the Rich,Â” Â“Europe with Peace and Justice,Â” and Â“Make Love Not War.Â”
A tear forms. Oh, God. I clutch the $80,000 sapphire bauble hanging around my neckÂ—a gift from my husband Geoffrey. What’s to become of us, I whimper? Will these anti-capitalist (therefore terrorist), peace loving (therefore violent), love making (therefore lesbian drug addicts) thugs steal all the hard earned money my husband Geoffrey inherited from his grandfather who made millions off war and human suffering, like any good capitalist should!? Will they cross the Atlantic, rush up the hand layed brick driveway, tramp across the Persian carpet, to sit down to dinner where the main course is pigeons en croute and me?
I try to distract myself with work, that is, I ring for my secretary so she can continue to plan my daughter Lynn’s wedding. It’s Lynn’s fourth and my secretary and I have been debating whether it’s acceptable for her to wear white. According Emily Post’s book of etiquette from 1922, the bride only wears white for her first wedding. After that it’s a tasteful suit, a trip to City Hall, perhaps a luncheon, and just the immediate family as guests. But now, according to the New York Times of March 17, gals can Â“go for itÂ”Â—1,500 friends, 80 piece orchestras, huge cake, etc., etc. My secretary and I agree that a big traditional wedding will pick up my spirits. But then I remember it will cost thousands of dollarsÂ—dollars that are soon to be stolen from us by peace and justice maniacs.
I dismiss my secretary. I can’t bear the thought that soon I will have to ask her to take a cut in wagesÂ—from a generous $7 an hour to $3.50. I wander through my lovely home, fingers lightly brushing my expensive furnishingsÂ—the 16th century desk, the 18th century chair, the…
My eye catches movement outside in the driveway. It’s a homeless gal, pushing a shopping cart filled with bottles and cans. Once I would have sympathized with her plight and tossed her a quarter that the maid might have dropped in the couch cushions, while cleaning. Now, I realize she is one of those feminist terrorists who divorced their husbands, who drain us dry by cheating the welfare system, and who want to destroy my right to be a domestic appendage/property. What’s wrong with these homeless gals? I gurgle. Why can’t they stay with their husbands!? What’s wrong with those husbands, neglecting their wives and children. I open the window and scream after her, Â“Put on some makeup and get yourself a man, you thieving terrorist.Â”
The gal looks confused and grabs an empty coke can. I panic. She’s got a bomb, I know it. But the can falls harmlessly to the ground and the gal runs off to make a fortune off recyclingÂ—no doubt. I am reminded of what a communist plot the environmental movement has been.
Just then my husband Geoffrey comes home and I ring for the maid and order cocktails. Hello, Geoffrey, I twitter. Smerf, says Geoffrey lovingly. He asks me what’s wrong. I tell him about the demonstrations, the eating the rich slogans, the homeless lesbian terroristÂ—it all comes pouring out, tears dropping into my martini glass. Geoffrey agrees that the women’s movement is responsible for poverty and terrorism, what with their refusal to subsume themselves under a man and also abandoning their children in daycare centers.
I thank Geoffrey for reminding me of the joys of being his domestic appendage, part of his estate, really. This distracts me from my sadness, and I remind him of our daughter’s pending fourth wedding. He looks confused, saying he didn’t realize Elizabeth was marrying again. I gently remind him that our daughter’s name is Lynn (he’s never home, because he’s busy with money and such) and we discuss the wedding and Emily Post and the couple’s month-long honeymoon in the Cayman Islands. The grandkids will stay with their nanny, of course, since she’s practically raised them, anyway. That’s her job and we pay her well, at least $4.50 an hour and a day off every month or so. Then we both realize how much the wedding will cost and I begin gurgling again.
Once Geoffrey would have reassured me that nothing could really make a dent in the amount of wealth we’d been able to accumulate since the Reagan/Bush yearsÂ— not even that grasping homeless welfare cheater who’s refusal to stay married may be the cause of capitalism’s downfall.
Instead Geoffrey sinks down into the plush rose covered silk damask chaiseÂ—a bargain at $10,000Â—in the drawing room and sighs. Geoffrey, I shrill, tell me we’re not ruined. Tell me we won’t have to live in poverty, with an income of a mere two million a year.
Geoffrey admits he’s worried. Geoffrey tells me about Enron and how those mean prosecutors are making Arthur Andersen a scapegoat for Enron. How Andersen has become the first major accounting firm to be charged with a felony. How the firm has done nothing illegal, it just made the mistake of not shredding all the Enron documents so no one would know they had done something criminal. Big deal, grunts Geoffrey. Since capitalism is, by definition, legalized crime, how can Andersen have done anything illegal, if you follow?
Geoffrey says Andersen may have to declare bankruptcy, like Polaroid. Geoffrey says, our close personal friend, Judith, was chief financial officer at Polaroid and after three years of dedicated service, she was forced to leave with only a $600,000 payout, a $500,000 stock award, a $17,000 severance check, and a new job at the Dutch/Shell group. I wonder briefly why Judith isn’t home blending in with the expensive furnishings, as I am, but Geoffrey doesn’t seem concerned and who am I to question Geoffrey. So I scream in horror at the injustice done to the CEOs of Polaroid. Geoffrey, I shriek, what’s to become of us, of our rich friends, and capitalism as we know it????
Geoffrey tries to rally my spirits. He tells me of how all the innocent professionals at Arthur Anderson are remaining loyal to the company; proud to work for them. How they are going to fight back. He tells me how George, a managing partner at the Boston office, told him, Â“I think we can beat the government on this one, but it is stunning how powerless you feelÂ…. Some people demonstrated bad judgment, but this is a nuclear attackÂ” (Boston Globe, March 16).
I smile through my tears and fiddle with my $800,000 diamond ring, a gift from Geoffrey on our last wedding anniversary. Yes, I simper, I feel for how powerless these multi-billion dollar companies are, subject the whims of the justice department. But you’re right, Geoffrey, of course they must fight back. Perhaps they’ll march on Washington chanting Â“Capitalists United Will Never Be DefeatedÂ” and Â“Shred or Dead.Â”
We hug each other; careful not to crease the expensive clothes we’re wearing. I’m happy again. Geoffrey, I twitter.
Geoffrey and I dine on pigeons en croute, our favorite. After dinner, we entertain some of our friendsÂ—the Bushes, Enron executives, Anderson CEO’s, etc. Geoffrey. We wave goodbye to our guests. Geoffrey has arranged to meet with them the next day to help plan the Capitalists United for war and injustice movement. Geoffrey suggests I start Welfare Wedding Inc. to cash in on Bush’s proposal. Geoffrey turns to me and asks if I’m happy, darling. Yes, Geoffrey, I burble. Any particular reason, he queries? Oh, yes, Geoffrey, I murmur. It’s because we’re soooooo fucking rich. Z