Yung Munny

Far be it from me to judge people on the basis of how much money they do or do not have. We are, after all, pretty much the same when it comes down to it: with similar wants and similar needs animating us to behave in similar ways. I do, however, contest the idea of excessive, individual accumulated-wealth. Being rich isn’t good for anyone. On a purely economic level, hoarding is disruptive; on a human one, its effects go beyond the disruptive and cut straight to destructive.

Studies have proven that wealth and happiness have no real, consonant relationship. It is now considered fact that aggregated income–wellbeing correlation is a myth, and the figures go someway to supporting this theory. In the USA per capita income rose by a factor of 2.75 between 1955-2002, but the proportion of Americans reporting themselves as “very happy” is level pegging. Japanese real per capita income rose 10 times between 1950 and 2000, but the average level of happiness, as best it can be measured, has remained a constant.

Those are the facts in their rawest form. Money ain’t shit.

In my mind great personal wealth is synonymous with two types of people, neither of whom are ever fully satisfied with their lot… On the one hand it belongs to those who desperately, pathologically, want to acquire it, and who often go to extreme lengths to do so… On the other, it lies with those who were born into ready-made fortunes, and for whom wealth can be a terrible limbo-machine – one that impedes their enjoyment, erodes any kind of entrepreneurial spirit and incurs all kinds of abstract guilt about money and fairness.

So in the absence of happiness, what the fuck is going on up there? Why do richfolk bother? Why don’t they just burn it all? Short answer: nobody knows.

One only has to look at the psycho-geography of London’s richest boroughs, to see that there’s probably something terribly, terribly amiss and unhappy about the young, moneyed, upper-classes of today. Look, for example, at Mahiki (lets call it Exhibit A) a bar in Mayfair named for ‘the Polynesian path to the Underworld’, which implores you to step in for ‘complete escapism’. Once ensconced therein you can expect to find a place where ‘intimate green rush affect [sic] banquettes and jetsam and flotsam hang, all amplifying the illusion of having arrived at some distant port of pleasure’. As if you needed further testimony to the ideological derangement of places like this, Mahiki serve a cocktail called The Armada Treasure Chest; served in a jewel-encrusted, waterproofed approximation of a nautical trunk and filled with your choice of top-line Champagnes and rums, it comes in at a cash-to-value-fucking £650. ‘Only a few deserve the pleasure of this treasure’ their marketing material jauntily insists.

It’s a mad and fetishistic place (not fun-mad, mad-mad), and there’s something genuinely unsettling about the terms in which they describe themselves, but if you go onto the websites of any of Chelsea’s bars and clubs, you’ll find that most, if not all, are full of such toxic hyperbole. For want of any real substance, they all have a theme, or worse, an ‘ethos’. On some sites it is described as just that, loudly, under sections headed ‘Our Ethos’. Tuatara, an ‘exclusive club’ on the King’s Road advertises itself as ‘an exotic, vibrant and luxurious nocturnal habitat’; Juju, another, has exchanged sumptuous written adjectives for a slow motion video of sylvan she-Sloanes winding themselves around complex cocktails (it wouldn’t be a lie if I told you that one of these cocktails is, in actual fact, just a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka with what looks like a Maritime Distress Flare selotaped to its side – how this is fun or sexy or cool is totally beyond me); The Wellington – The Welly – a private members club in Knightsbridge, invites you to enjoy their ‘playground’ which is ‘geared up for dancing, partytime and playtime’[1]; Annabel’s, though more austere than most, still describes itself in terms like ‘opulent’, ‘indulgent’ and ‘luxurious’; Boujis, the hell-mouth and Ur-progenitor of all sloaney nightclubs, claims to ‘possess a [sic] unique design aesthetic that allows guests to feel luxurious and indulged’. The grossest of all schlocky blurbs though, belongs to Mamilanji’s (pron: Mama –lunge-ee) and in the interest of retaining its power, I replicate it here in full: “Awe-stricken fashion forward ‘Chelseaites’ groove into the Kubrick-like futuristic Space Odyssey gem that is Mamalanji. This neon-lit zen interior immediately intoxicates bringing out voyeuristic instincts. In an age when denizens of boites are grappling with ill-décor Mamalanji`s visionaries Milan and Manji have come up trumps. The zip codes of SW3, 7 and 10 are already magnetically being pulled to this blissful dance sanctuary.”

In lieu of something deeper – like any kind of real culture – these places offer their guests spa-weekend luxury dressed up as decadence, and written in the language of devotional literature. They’re asking their clientele to do one thing, and one thing only: gorge until they are sick. It’s the fucking Vomitorium all over again. It’s only when they’re over-indulging in something that they feel like they might be enjoying it.

But the nightlife is only one side of the multifaceted polyhedron that has come (in my mind) to represent the lives of our rich and our aristocrats. The other faces of the die are just as strange, and just as disturbing: popped collars and boot-cut jeans; clothing with more ornamental beading than seems decent; grown men with toddlers’ puffy hair; otherwise clean-looking women with dreadlocks; ridiculous cars; botoxed brows; velvet jackets; packs of men bellowing into the night (“but maite…but maite…maite”); cowboy boots; wrap around sunglasses; shooting parties; Thai Fisherman’s pants; seventeen different shades of eastern mysticism; fur coats; Jack Wills rugby shirts; and trophy wives. Their universe is so intricate and nuanced that it’s almost impossible to tackle without making it one’s life’s work, but, on the surface, at least, it seems ridiculous: the super-rich are a species of person that is somehow but not quite familiar; they look human and they smell human, but the way they behave is fucking deranged.

Just the other night I found myself sat next to a typically Sloaney girl at a dinner party. Stuck for anything to say, I let her talk and talk and talk to fill the silence. Within five minutes she was on the subject of her ‘Shaman, Aziz’, and I was staring boggle-eyed at my plate – trapped in the psychological-stasis of wanting to do violence, but, simultaneously, not wanting to see anyone’s feelings hurt. Two minutes later we were discussing the Halloween party she had thrown the week before: “it was wucked’ she said ‘we all took like super-crazy Blue Ecstacy until seven, then did a deep spiritual meditation all Sunday. Rally crazy party”.  Touching the void here, I found myself becoming hysterical and had to hide in the bathroom for almost an hour. People knocked, but I wouldn’t come out. Like Daisy in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby who was appalled by the socialites on Egg Island, I too found myself horrified by the ‘too obtrusive fate’ that herds these people ‘along a short-cut from nothing to nothing’. This woman had no choice but to fist ‘super-crazy Blue Ecstacy’ into her mouth, nor did she have any say in whether she did a ‘deep spiritual meditation’, because thats the social-currency they trade in SW3. If she tried to do anything else, she’d be going against the grain.

To summarise, everything they do seems – to me, at least – empty, demented and filled with an unnatural sense of elitism.

To inherit serious capital, or to be born into a culture of great wealth, must be a terrible burden. In the first instance it pegs one’s life to the achievements of immediate family or a long-dead ancestor, not one’s own. In the second, people are rarely afforded enough money to actually burn through it in any hallucinogenically profligate way – they’re normally given just enough to eke a very comfortable living over a couple of generations. In the third, it buys one immediate access to an elite that is terrified of change – trapped in a class system of its own design – and which  nobody in the real work-a-day, functioning world wants or respects anymore.

I’m not saying that the rich are depressed, unfulfilled zombies, that’s not quite true (if anything this article is guilty of GROSS generalisation, so take it with a pinch of salt). Nor am I saying that my life as a dedicated member of the middle classes is an orgy of excitement and genuine experience, because it’s not. [2] But I am saying that a great number of people – people who have the resources and educations to do interesting things, to finance interesting things – are selling themselves short because they’re scared of what might lie on the other side of the class divide.

I’ll admit it, I have no real argument that goes anywhere beyond not really understanding what animates the rich, or, more generally, that too much money is a bad thing.

Ah shit, whatever, bed now. One day I’ll write a book about what a functioning socialist hegemony might look like, and I’m sure it will all shimmer into focus.


[1] The Wellington has one of the most bizarre websites I’ve ever seen. On the landing page one is asked to ‘get past the goons on the door’ by answering quixotic, sphynxlike questions in the vein of  ‘who is Mr Death?’ When one answers correctly, the website responds with ‘Peace :-) , come on in’.

[2] I’ve spent the whole weekend watching youtube clips of automatic shotguns and Men’s Tennis. Scintillating. It. Is. Not.

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