Tahoe Pine Nuts: From the Gilded Age to the Platinum Age
Mark Twain was discreet when writing about sexual relationships, but unrestrained when writing a pornography of the dollar.
“The Gilded Age,” written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, published in 1873, gave us our first good dose of political satire. Both men must be spinning like lathes to see their avaricious Gilded Age of the 19th century dwarfed by the rapacious Platinum Age of the 21st century, where the dollar has become God, and how to get it, the prevailing religion.
We could probably lay some guilt for the Gilded Age at the feet of Jay Gould, who according to Twain was, “…the mightiest disaster which has ever befallen this country. People desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it.”
In the book, “The Gilded Age,” Colonel Sellers is determined to get money, get it quickly, get it in abundance, get it in prodigious abundance, and get it honestly if he must.
All the while, the book’s covetous characters remain resolutely pious, “Uncle Silas peeled off one of the bulliest old-time blessings, with as many layers to it as an onion, whilst the angels was haulin’ in the slack of it.”
In the end, we become convinced that a tallow candle in a stove is sufficient, because what we want is the appearance of heat.
This telling book is relevant today, amidst our American century of No Lobbyist Left Behind, and Corporate Personhood. One television satirist, I think it was Colbert, mused, “If a corporation is a person, it’s a person I don’t want going out with my daughter.”
Don’t FactCheck me on that, because you know I deal exclusively in half-truths, innuendos and double entendres.
So far in this year’s presidential campaign, roughly 400 families have contributed nearly half of the total amount contributed to war chests, causing Donald Trump to concede, “I know these people, and they are not contributing because they are nice people.”
For the record, I consider the Donald to be a tallow candle in a stove, but then I am a stump-tail pundit and not a political pundit.
One percent of today’s world population possesses half of its wealth, which seems to indorse the Mathew Effect as being more germane today than it was in biblical times, “Unto those who have, more will be given.” Jesus’ advice to focus less on the speck in our brother’s eye, and more on the beam in our own eye also rings true today.
So why are sports and music and visual arts and performing arts so essential in today’s platinum age? Because they take our eyes away from the inequities we see in a 24 hour news cycle that would otherwise wring our hearts dry. Just don’t ask what the guy standing out there in center field with the glove on his hand is making per game.
In closing, I shall leave the last word to Mark Twain, as I am wont to do … “I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”
Learn more about McAvoy Layne, Tahoe’s longtime Mark Twain impersonator, at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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