A bus tour that bills itself as an “upper class safari” has ignited controversy in Stockholm recently, by offering interested Swedes a bus tour to see “how the other half lives.” “Other half” is probably not the best way to describe it—“upper 1%” would be more appropriate. Like many ideas that incite this much controversy, this is awesome and must happen in the US as soon as possible.
Obviously, a lot of rich people are very upset about this, because they would be, wouldn’t they? One aggrieved rich person complained, in a quote seemingly lifted from The Onion:
“I don’t understand what those communists are doing here. It is hardly our fault that they are poor,” another said, eggs at the ready.
This sort of response makes perfect sense given the way that members of any elite class become very accustomed to their privilege. For years, “slum tourism” has offered those with an egregiously misguided sense of idealism or absolutely no shame the opportunity to gawp at the world’s poorest and least advantaged. For those idle rich who got a kick out of Slumdog Millionaire or City of God, there are tours of Mumbai’s slums, Rio’s favelas, Harlem’s churches, or the torture sites of Latin America. As long as these wildly problematic slum tours exist, there should exist the upper-class safari. An imperfect standard applied equally is preferable to one applied selectively, after all!
It’s not surprising that a lot of wealthy people react with venom to having their privilege challenged, but this is an interesting reaction coming from Swedes. Sweden has the most even income inequality of any nation on Earth, meaning that there’s a narrow socio-economic divide between the sightseers and angry sight-seen. Sweden has such equitable wealth distribution that Americans point to Sweden as an ideal example to emulate.
Seriously, how soon until we can get “upper class safaris” going here? Firstly, Americans are the people most in need of a lesson on the realities of wealth inequality. When asked, Americans vastly underestimate how much income inequality actually exists in this country:
A visceral lesson on the realities of where wealth resides would do our country a lot of good. Secondly, think of all the terrible people this would piss off! Laura Blankfein, wife of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd “doing God’s work” Blankfein, threw an infamous shit-fit because she had to wait in line with lower tier donors at an event in the Hamptons–how awesome would it be if these assholes had to watch bus after bus disgorge loads of working-class tourists on their front lawn everyday?
Sign me up for an upper class safari as soon as they start selling tickets, but I’d bring Maalox and a vinegar-soaked rag. If there’s anything that the reaction to the Occupy movements has taught us, it’s that our country’s elites use more formidable weaponry than eggs and opprobrium to protect what’s theirs.