The Victorian era gave birth to a very unpleasant custom called slumming. Parties of swells in London and New York would descend on impoverished neighborhoods as a form of entertainment. In addition to breaking up the tedium of their posh lives, the adventure made them feel superior.
A much updated version of slumming has been taking place in Manhattan, where Facebook is arranging its initial public offering. This time, though, it's the super-rich visitor, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is dressed in rags — his trademark T-shirt and hoodie. The Wall Street investors currying his favor are the ones in expensive business suits.
What Zuckerberg's costume says is: "They need me. I don't need them." Like the tuxedoed waiters scurrying about the four-star restaurants that tech tycoons visit in jeans and baseball caps, Wall Street heavies are merely another kind of servant. Of course, most eyes stay dry at images of investment bankers in the top half of the top 1 percent being dissed by a kid in the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent.
Less appetizing is the con perpetrated on Facebook users. The entire wealth of the enterprise is based on the munchkins' willingness to surrender their privacy and friends' names to Facebook — data to be packaged a thousand ways and sold to the highest bidder. To use the users, Zuckerberg must get them to trust him, hence the after-school sweats.
Elsewhere on Facebook's upper deck, another founder, Eduardo Saverin, has just renounced his American citizenship, a mere 14 years after the Brazil native obtained it. Saverin denies that he became a citizen of Singapore to avoid the American taxes he'd surely pay after the spectacular stock offering. Funny how no one believes him.
From the annals of ingratitude: Under a kidnapping threat, Saverin's wealthy family left Brazil for the safety of Miami.
Eduardo later attended Harvard. There he met ...