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Surviving the Inevitable Affluenza Pandemic
Field Notes From a Case Study
"Drowning all his sorrows on his family's private beach" sounded like a really good idea to him when his mother mentioned it. Two weeks of heavy binge-drinking and drug-cocktailing did not help this victim we will call "Thurston" to feel better about himself or his over-privileged life.
Now his new Italian wingtips handmade from virgin leather "cows that never had sex" are soaking wet and have sand in them. He has been neither willing nor able to take them off because he has never learned how to retie them. He considered bringing a servant with him in his Porsche convertable for that purpose, but decided that all those available "made his car look too poor and ugly."
Researcher: Do you think you can try tying your own laces?
(Subject is signaling that he can't hear me with pantomimed hand signals that exemplify Thurston's favored form of humor. He calls this and all similar behaviors bro-taunting.)
Researcher: Bro, your feet have been in those shoes for two weeks now. I'll totally walk you through tying them. No sweat involved, easy-peasy, I promise.
Thurston: I don't think you really are my brother. Tying is a servant's job, which anyone who isn't a pauper already knows every bit as well as the Yale Fight Song! You can't just lie about being at Yale and get away with it, you know. If I tell someone, I bet they electrocute you in prison.
Researcher: I graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Thurston: Oh please, that doesn't even sound like a real fraternity.
Researcher: It isn't. How can I explain this? I went to Yale on a full academic scholarship.
Thurston: OMG! Why didn't you tell me that you're just a peasant? Untie my shoes this instant, peasant! I command you!
Researcher: Yes, I'll do that for you, but first I need to finish all my research work.
Thurston: How incredibly boring for you! I'll just wait over there, then. Why do they let paupers into Yale, anyway? What did you even do there all day?
Usually Thurston shops when he feels this "under the weather," which is often. He has expressed that he is "a true genius at shopping." It makes him feel accomplished. He wants to shop right now to replace his wet leather shoes but can't. He left his latest smartphone in his latest Porsche convertible. Unfortunately, he parked his car too close to the water at low tide today with the top down. Now since he can't see it, he assumes that poor people have stolen it from him. He wonders why poor people would steal a car nearly a whole year old now and "risk the electric chair" when they "could just buy a newer model year Ferrari convertible, instead." Thurston admits that he will never understand poor people.
He has insurance that covers the "theft" but isn't going to file a claim. He doesn't like "sitting on the wrong side of a big desk signing things" but if he has to, wants to do that while buying a new Ferrari convertible instead. He now has decided to buy two Ferrari convertibles of the latest model year in his favorite "colors" black and white so that he has a spare one to drive "just in case the poor people return."
Does "Thurston" remind you of yourself? If not, you probably don't suffer from Affluenza. Some people believe that Affluenza is a communicable disease, mostly afflicting our best and brightest (or at least our richest.)
However, many more people, including the vast majority of the medical community and most of the public in general too, believe that Affluenza started out as a fun and fairly clever portmanteau, a slang word combining two real words. Portmanteaus, or portmanteaux since both plural forms are correct, are usually created to describe trends. Recent decades have given us bromance, frenemies, trustafarians, frogurt, fanzines, glamping, sexting, and chrismukkah, just to name a few. Of all portmanteaus across the decades, only Affluenza has achieved the cult status of becoming both a proposed catastrophic medical condition and a winning legal defense.
Just to recap for the people who have been getting all their news from the semaphore translation of a crystal ball reading, Affluenza entered the planetary consciousness because of a Thurston named Ethan Couch who killed four people and injured others by "driving" his truck while drunk enough to be passed out and drugged enough to be dead of an overdose, allegedly. In court, he got 10 years probation because according to his legal team, he suffers from Affluenza. The next we saw of him, he appeared in a beer pong video that may have caused just about everybody to wonder how sincerely he was abiding by the terms of his probation. That is when he and Mumsy Couch threw a hasta la vista fiesta, inviting all their friends and presumably a whole house full of other people too, then disappeared like Kaiser Sose and KS junior. That was their cunning plan, anyway. The execution of that plan wasn't quite as brilliant.
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Couches
So, whether the reality of Affluenza is real or just real enough to justify a totally made-up word, the deep scars that those sad events in Texas have left all over popular culture guarantee that the relative reality of Affluenza is really real and therefore here to stay.
So, my dear friends, may you remember that you heard it here first: Beware the coming of the dreaded Affluenza Pandemic! Cue music!
Even if an Affluenza Pandemic isn't real enough to worry about right now, it will be soon enough. Why should we all wait until the very last minute to gnash our teeth, form dodgy not-for-profits, write up our crowd-funding proposals, and hoard more emergency rations in our already ration cluttered basements? Don't wait! Let's start fixing the problem by selling these handy Affluenzapocalypse (TM) Survival Kits online in which (for the low price of $49.95 plus "tax," "shipping," and "handling") they get:
1 multi-use eye pillow filled with aroma-therapeutic cedar sawdust and grass cuttings.
1 roll of standard duct tape
1 cheap multi-tool made in China that looks impressive in photos but may break in several different places if the Thurston using it isn't super careful when sliding out the fingernail file.
1 jar of Grey Poupon (with small tag on bottom indicating it is intended for novelty purposes only since it is already several years past the expiry date.)
1 one-size-fits-all "I Survived the Affluenzapocalypse!" t-shirt that fits next to no one.
(Some call it selling a bunch of garbage and some really expensive duct tape on Ebay. Others call it a capitalist-approved DIY wealth redistribution plan.)
What are the Five Main Symptoms of Affluenza?
1. Affluenza makes the proper use of a steering wheel and brakes a near physical impossibility. Remember that the afflicted would drive more carefully and responsibly, if they could. Since they can't, the rest of us are obligated to make every allowance and help them not to need to steer or brake. We can accomplish this by diving out their way if on foot or driving out their way, by swerving our older, cheaper vehicles outside of their projected path as far and as often as necessary. Experts on Affluenza advise avoiding all proximity to expensive-looking vehicles, even ones that seem parked or unoccupied . Such conditions can change in the blink of an eye.
If only peasants would stop building things in front of the cars of their betters. When can the oppressed elite minority ever catch a break?
2. Sufferers are often puzzled by the meanings of common words, phrases, and concepts that most others in society grasp by age four. "No" is a word difficult for most victims of Affluenza to accept or even to understand fully.
An expression like "no means no" is for them a sort of brain-teaser or koen that seems to be without any meaning or correct answer. There may be a vague notion that the two identical sides balance but what does either side really equal? x equals x where x has no meaning or value at all?
The concept of "no" that other people hear and understand is never so much as suggested by the word to those with stage 5, or terminal Affluenza, also known as Affluenzheimer's. What is clearly implied to these unfortunate victims is that the word represents an obstacle between themselves and whatever they want at the moment otherwise known to them as higher good. In other words any "no" they hear is evil. In order to be moral, they must overcome "no" by any means necessary.
Instead of using this confusing word in an Affluenza victim's presence, say yes instead, but with a condition attached that will never happen. Saying "Yes, but not until my place of business closes." works well if you are a police officer. Saying "Yes, but not until we get married." works well if you are an already married woman or a black prostitute. Saying "Yes, but not until you take over and successfully run the company for a while." generally works like a charm if you are an elderly relative.
3. Those suffering Affluenza exhibit remarkably poor problem-solving in the real world. No matter how intelligent they claim to be, they often act mentally challenged or like very young children when thrown into situations outside their own narrow expertise, experience, or comfort level. When trying new things they often can become dangerous to themselves and others.
Non-sufferers must be ever-vigilant knowing that those who suffer Affluenza are constantly at risk. Whether walking their own dog or answering their own door, their potential to create mayhem should never be underestimated. Often victims find it impossible to undress or redress without the usual entourage of experienced servants there to help. Some victims have caused their own deaths while onlookers laughed innocently thinking they were being secretly filmed for a new reality TV show or witnessing a clever comedian perfecting a routine.
If you see someone at an upscale gym, spa, or hotel strangling himself with a button down or trying to remove trousers over his own head, do not try to help. Tell everyone else in the crowd to stay well back. Call 911 immediately and tell them that you suspect the victim may be struggling with Affluenza. You could save lives. In all other situations, keep in mind as you go about your day that there are always more sufferers of Affluenza out there than there are people trying to make you laugh on purpose for free.
When a Thurston and friends travel, they should take more than just one servant.
4. Victims often exhibit what has been described as an inbred appearance, often but not always accompanied by pale and overly sensitive skin, a weak or recessive chin and/or pronounced jowls, buck teeth, facial tics, stiff and rehearsed speech patterns, a dim and unfocused gaze, baby soft hands, and massive and often exotic drug habits.
5.Victims tend to attract two types of friends: Those who often claim to barely know them and people they remember meeting only once who later sell exclusive stories, emails, court room testimony, grandmothers, narcotics, photographs and/or sex tapes to other people also suffering from Affluenza.
What Causes Affluenza?
Affluenza is caused by an imbalance in the distribution of wealth. In short, the wealthiest one percent are now hoarding too much wealth, over half of it as of 2016. That's right, one percent of the people on the earth own more of the world's wealth that the other ninety-nine percent all put together. Too many of us are poor. Not enough of us are solidly in the middle.
Now, before anyone concludes that Affluenza is all the fault of rich people, I say, let's not blame the afflicted for the disease. Besides, it is easy to blame poor people for everything wrong with society. So go ahead, blame us poor people for this! We don't mind. We're used to it. In fact, being the cause of all society's ills makes us feel important. But whether we make 7000 dollars a year or 700,000, we are all just poor people to them.
Since poor people like us are entirely responsible for Affluenza, I think we should try to help cure it, too. Wealth all has to go somewhere, right? I don't know about the rest of you non-Thurstons out there, but I could afford to own a little more of the world's wealth. Are you too willing to adopt a little more of the heavy burden of the elite, so that our society as a whole can become a little bit more healthy and stable?