A glimpse of the widening class divide in American life at Further Future

The Guardian, increasingly a fine vital source for American news despite having a British source, has a scathing portrait of a new social event.  Nellie Bowles’ depiction of Further Future offers a useful and/or terrifying and/or hilarious glimpse into how the 1% see themselves in an era of widening class divides.  These reflections should be useful for educators in particular.

The gist: Further Future is a fun event for the rich, what the headline dubs “‘Burning Man for the 1%'”.  It’s a “transformational festival”, which is apparently a current thing.  There is music, technology, food, and people, according to the FF promoters.

Bowles digs in and finds the spectacular wealth angle.  Read the whole piece, but let me pull out a few elements that seem especially useful.

Future Forward_white people_Ted Dub

This seems to be a real photo.

1: the elite expect, and receive, extraordinary levels of personal service.  Some pay for “Lunar Palaces ([which cost] $7,500) – 200 sq ft, 9ft high, custom-made luxury domes with wooden flooring and furnished to sleep four.”

“These included something called an entourage concierge – ‘a personal, dedicated lifestyle manager and assistant ready to help you with any requirements or desires you may have. No request is ever unattainable.’ The lifestyle assistant, who makes sure you have the soap you like, will work with you on everything ‘from the green juice you enjoy every morning to the old-fashioned cocktail you sip on in the evenings’.”

Note the wellness theme.

2: the group is self-congratulatory.

Alphabet’s CEO and former Google jefe explains: “This is a high percentage of San Francisco entrepreneurs, and they tend to be winners. It’s a curated, self-selected group of adults who have jobs…”  In other words, they are the best, and deserve this.  A lot of pride there from a man who seems to want to actually look like a twenty-first century caricature of a nineteenth-century capitalist:

Anything is if you call if steampunk.

Between the visual style and the servants, we’re seeing some fierce neo-Victorian action here.  As a friend put it on Facebook,

"Brian Strauss sounds like the Diamond Age is here"

“Curated”: curation seems to be on the rise as a term for luxury.

3: a stark class divide is the order of things, the new nature, simply the way things are, and it’s for the best:

“someone asks the instructor Fabian Piorkowski about privilege…

‘It’s all about balance. We are the ones meant to be the air, not the earth,” Piorkowski said. “So you have this group who can travel. The purpose can never be to enable everyone to travel because that would create imbalance.'” [emphasis added]

It’s instructive to compare that statement with this one, from the event’s website: “The world of limitations is far away, judgments irrelevant and anything is possible.”  Apparently describing what you think of as nature is not a judgement, nor a restriction of possibility.

Piorkowski’s statements are the best powerful from this article.  They are both stark and lyrical in their explanation and celebration of a new Gilded Age.  Remember, kids, that not everyone can travel.  Some of you are dirt the earth.

Future Forward_white people_Ted Dub -added text


4: it’s very hard to be the 1%, and those folks deserve a break.

“Burning Man, and we have great reverence for Burning Man, but there’s always an element of arduousness. Here, we have spa treatments and green juice,” [Russell Ward, the general show runner and publicist] said. “There’s already enough in life that’s tough.”

Note that their relaxation means servants service. So serving them is not just the way of things, but an act of empathy and support.  But you won’t find this on the FF site, which carefully avoids mentioning people working, who aren’t performing musicians.

(Ward also offers this observation about his background and ambition, which I’ll just leave here for your edification:

Before running the tech world’s hot new trend, Ward had an online gaming hedge fund. “The problem was it got hairy. It’s a dodgy industry,” he said. “We weren’t doing anything illegal, but we got raided by the government, and I got spooked. So I had to decide where to plant my next seed, and I found this knack for festivals.”)

So, to sum up: this is certain new tone from the 1%, an aggressive assertion of their privilege.  Their wealth and power are very natural, connected to wellness and a sense of global balance.  They need and expect service, which is ultimately not just the way things are, but for the best.

FurtherFuture vista_Guardian

In education and related fields, we need to know this when we work with such people: teaching them, soliciting funds from them, and seeing their institutions rise.

(thanks to Clyde Lee Graham for the link; white people photo by Ted Weiss; all others from Guardian article)

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2 Responses to A glimpse of the widening class divide in American life at Further Future

  1. I find myself caught somewhere between laugh and gag reflexes. Of course, if I were one of them, I probably wouldn’t turn down the massage. Of course ANYTHING can be ordered up including child prostitutes, ponies, pup tents, vats of Wesson oil, trips to the moon on gossamer wings…

  2. These are the people we are supposed to forgive for their wealth, tax avoidance and sheer extravagant self indulgence. These creeps give the western system a bad name. So it’s ‘natural’ to be super rich, over priviliged and a twit. I wonder how much the world would miss these over privileged infants.

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