Fascination with F. Scott
I have always been fascinated by the literary works of renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. His recurring portrayal of upper-class citizens living gaudy and outrageous existences devoid of true significance or meaning has captivated me for years.
I’m not truly sure why.
Maybe it’s simply because it makes for such compelling and emotional story lines and reinforces the age old adage “money cannot buy happiness.” Perhaps it’s due to the fact reading about characters experiencing an elevated style of living is thrilling. Or it could simply be attributed to how simply tragic and lifeless the reality of the character’s condition truly is. Honestly, I might just like it because it makes me feel better about the very real possibility I might never earn a significant sum of money in my life. Whatever the reason, I love nothing more than reading a piece detailing individuals at the pinnacle of society’s class structure and the emptiness of their dreary lives.
I have spent the last three months residing in Scottsdale, Arizona. Attending college two hours north at Northern Arizona University up in the mountainous region of Flagstaff, I had heard all the stories about Scottsdale. Haven for the rich. Snobbsdale. Plastic surgery central. The list of wealthy insults had no end. When I decided to move to Scottsdale for three months to work a paid public relations internship, I wasn’t particularly deterred by the region’s bad reputation. I had grown up in upper class suburbs, and had spent an entire summer working in Beverly Hills.
I figured I had witnessed all the artificiality the West Coast could possibly throw at me. And I was so incredibly wrong.
Before diving into this piece, let me make this clear: I take no issue with people’s success. Many of the wealthy have earned their money through relentless ambition and the sweat on their brow, and they should be commended for it.
During my time here in Scottsdale, I became acquainted with several individuals who reside in the upper echelons of Scottsdale high society. I am not quite sure of their views of me. I am writing this not out of spite, but as an observation of their hopelessness. How suitable it is that they would be the perfect cast of central characters for a Fitzgerald-esque epic.
The only aspect of their lives holding them up is money. That’s all they care about. They covet it. Hoard it. Boast about it. Every single source of their satisfaction stems from their financial superiority.
They receive a thrill from being able to casually state “we’re looking for a private jet today” or how they are frequent shoppers at Barney’s New York. They compare their exclusive and rare jet black credit cards, waving them around blatantly in the open to convey to onlookers “I can buy you ten times over right now if I wanted to.”
Course, there’s nothing wrong with having money. And cockiness is a natural human trait possessed by individuals all over the globe. What makes these specific individuals so tragic is how money is literally the only thing holding them up. Without it they would collapse, their existence would shatter beneath their feet and leave them with nothing.
Their interactions with fellow members of the Scottsdale elite are empty and superficial exchanges bursting with niceties and falseness. The conversation lacks substance, and consists mostly of overused pleasantries and clichéd niceties.
These particular individuals cannot relate to anyone, even the people on their own financial level. They gather together in their fancy restaurants, talking about their money, enjoying their lofty position. Yet the conversation is so empty and cold. They seemingly possessed nothing but utter contempt for those not as fortunate as themselves, and while none of them have ever blatantly spoken it, there are times where they catch themselves about to dismissingly remark “ well, they’re poor.”
When referencing their “friends,” they usually are first to announce “oh, they’re rich,” or “they have money.” They are additional seemingly immune to the trials and tribulations of the common man. Plus, they just seem straight up delusional at times. Once, one of them gave me this speech:
“Once, I was driving from my house on Camelback Mountain. I was at a stoplight, and I saw this man. He was digging through the garbage for food. I then realized there are…poor people in this world.”
Great speech. Very inspirational and insightful. Truly remarkable.
At the end of the day, I don’t dislike these individuals. I pity them. Their lives are as artificial as they come. They reside in a delusional world full of superficial human relationships and shallow values. Money is everything. Without is they are nothing. These select individuals aren’t without their detractors; they have left behind shattered relationships, broken business dealings, and shaky ethics in their wake.
There is a magnificent and truly remarkable quote near the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It is referencing Tom and Daisy Buchanan, two wealthy yet ignorant married aristocrats whose lack of clarity drives the story. The quote goes:
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
And perfectly applicable.