Karal Markowicz’s editorial, “America’s ugly epidemic of social media envy,” is about something bigger than social media. The envy has been here for a long time. Democrats in politics would be impossible without it.
Markowicz writes about one specific example of envy:
I’m thinking of Karen Paperno, the owner of Park Slope baby boutique Boing Boing, who raged in Huffington Post piece about the growing affluence of her neighborhood and her difficulty in keeping up with the Joneses. In this example of off-line jealousy, The New York Times picked up the story and detailed the difficult life of a middle-class woman in a rich neighborhood.
It’s easy to feel sympathetic to Paperno, who works hard at a neighborhood business and whose husband’s illness forced her to close a second business location. At least, it is until she admits to stealing “spices, honey, coconut oil, granola; expensive things that I wanted” from a store near her home, even as she derides the materialism of others.
What jumped out at me when I was reading about her thefts is that Paperno’s behavior is almost exactly how one law professor we all know once described “radical” justice:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.
These words, of course, are from Barack Obama. His description of a man sitting at a lunch counter who ought to have the authority to demand a meal he can’t afford, in order to be equal to the patrons with money, sounds precisely like Paperno walking into a store and helping herself to the products she wants. The government is supposed to get them for her anyway.
Paperno later claimed remorse about her thefts, but her current sermonizing raises doubts:
Following rules makes sense for the Ruling Class. The rest of us must question the inequality of wages, legislation, prison sentences, lending practices, etc.. and take action in any way you can.
Something HAS to change.
Pretty incredible. Paperno ran a business and had to cut back on employees at one point. She knows, or has no excuse for forgetting, why wages cannot be equal.
Civilization can’t survive this kind of rage or moralizing. The only reason that a middle class ever formed was because people followed the rules. They did not permit their misfortunes to rationalize resentment of others. And they did not expect crimes committed due to such pressures to be excused or overlooked.
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” –Proverbs 14.30