Stockholm Syndrome is a condition that sets in as kidnap victims and hostages come to depend on and eventually grow enamored with their captors. This is a most pernicious of maladies; for people who are brutalized by their oppressors to not only be in need of those who torment them but actually come to adore them is truly perplexing. Patty Hearst is the most renowned example of someone who was beset with Stockholm Syndrome after she was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army; not only did she get programmed to love her kidnappers, she joined her captors in their rampage across America. Well my friends, Stockholm Syndrome ain’t got nothing Hamptons Syndrome!
Hamptoms Syndrome is a condition where the poor, working and middle class become dependent on their aristocratic oppressors and eventually get smitten by them. I will be honest, for a while I thought only Republicans and conservatives were beset by this condition. I would shake my head each time I heard of some working schmuck in middle-America raving about the wealthiest Americans while bashing his fellow struggling Americans. In all candor, it used to piss me off witnessing people of meager means worshiping the rich and affluent all along casting aspersions at those mired in poverty. Nothing rankled my nerve quite like hearing some “conservative” bash impoverished souls on welfare while ignoring the affluent who live off government dole and thrive through corporate and estate welfare.
Thomas Frank wrote a whole book about this weird fixation that the conservative base have with Republicans and their penchant to praise the rich while voting against their economic self-interest. “What’s the Matter with Kansas” inspects how the “heartland of America” got their hearts torn out by the malicious policies of the Republican party that caters to the whims of the wealthiest among us while preaching family values to their constituents. Republicans love to quote Jesus while acting every bit the part of pharisees. Instead of following His teachings and giving to those who have least, they take from the poor and give to the wealthy.
We saw the mendacity of Republicans in the DC last week as they passed a tax bill that saddles us and our children with $1.5 trillion in debt while giving hundreds of billions in tax cuts to those who already have more money than they can spend. It’s bad enough that Mitt Romney and his ilk pay less in effective taxes than a single mother who toils at Arby’s or a working father who drives a taxi. Republicans, led by Donald Trump, are now leading an effort to give the already fabulously wealthy preferential treatment by running up he national debt to pay for this tax scam only to turn around and take a hammer to social security and safety nets for the needy. I just knew that the Republican base was the perfect example of how politics can induce a collective case of Hamptons Syndrome. Christian conservatives should read James 2:6 over and over and over again and stop idolizing usurers.
But it hit me recently, it’s not only Republicans and conservatives who are beset by Hamptons Syndrome. I’ll be damned if liberals and Democrats are not star struck by the rich and famous too. On all sides, we have become a cult of personalities as we keep prostrating ourselves in order to elevate the very people who are at the root of our struggles. It’s not bad enough to worship the debased (I no longer call them the elites), we go one step further and offer them our backs to step on. We are truly a society of masochists who keep voting for and following sadists only to turn around and bemoan our fates after we get pillaged. The tragedy of it all is that we keep lionizing the “upper crust” of society as we shellac others who struggle like us. Excuse the mixed metaphors but we have become a nation of crabs and frogs; as we claw at each other, the water around us slowly comes to a boil.
Come to find out that Thomas Frank is just a one sided hack diagnosing the ills of America through a partisan stethoscope. The same way Republicans pillage their base is how Democrats stiff their most loyal constituents. Both parties talk the talk while walking away in their Wall Street stilettos and Oxford shoes. The whole of our nation has been inverted into a pyramid scheme as Republicans use tax cuts to enrich the wealthy while Democrats leverage monetary policies to fatten the pigs on Wall Street–this is why I started to call Washington the District of Caligula. But if we are to be honest with ourselves, this is beyond politics and goes directly at who and what we have become as a society. We have an unnatural addiction to all that glitters as we value style over substance; we seem to view everything through Kool-Aid colored glasses.
The reason I called it Hamptons Syndrome is because the Hamptons, New York is one of the most affluent areas in America. Some of the most affluent Americans call the Hamptons home and many more millionaires and billionaires host private parties and soirees the cost of which could buy a hundred homeless veterans a house for Christmas. While more and more of us are being bracketed by economic anxieties and financial insolvency, those in high society spend more on foie gras in one night than most Americans pay for their mortgage in one year—every year is 1999 for the 1%. The party never stops, the rich and powerful keep getting more and more as both parties lavish them with tax breaks and bailouts. Meanwhile, our status is blinking red and our bank accounts are bleeding crimson. Injuries begetting insults, they have us fighting for crumbs as our share of the economic pie shrinks only for the 1% to yell “let them eat Monsanto cake!”
Instead of saying enough and making a beeline to the pitchforks, too many are too busy fawning over the very people who are fleecing us. There is a part of me that is thoroughly perplexed by this; how is it that people who are getting bludgeoned by the plutocratic class can be so enraptured by them? But upon reflection, it makes sense. We hate that which reminds us of us and we romanticize that which we want to emulate. We too want to be famous; we too want to be rich and affluent. This is why people are willing to bend themselves into pretzels in order to adulate the opulent. This is also why someone who struggles to pay rent and lives paycheck to paycheck finds it so easy to dehumanize others who struggle like him while exalting the rich and powerful—he is trying to desensitize himself to his own suffering.I don’t mean to be preachy about this; I too was once beset by a severe case of Hamptons Syndrome as Barack Obama had me believing that he was the change I was waiting for. A mean mugging by reality and a kiss from mistress poverty woke me up to the chicanery of the First Bank President. I speak on these things from first hand experience, it is unhealthy to be transfixed to personalities and let star power dictate our direction as individuals and as a nation. Too often, we confuse riches and popularity for wisdom and benevolence. In reality, people who have accumulated and hoard billions of dollars while billions of people suffer are prime example of wickedness and all that is wrong in our world. From the pan to the fire, we went from the empty suit hope peddler to an orange brutish grifter—Hamptons Syndrome is nothing to sneeze at. #HamptonsSyndrome
“The rich rob the poor, and the poor rob one another.” ~ Sojourner Truth
Check out the newest Ghion Cast where I discuss the pernicious playbook of divide and conquer, perhaps at the root of this blueprint of pitting neighbor against neighbor is Hamptons Syndrome.
If you are in the DC Metro area, or as we call it the DMV, save this date and come through Sidamo Coffee and Tea on Saturday December 16th. This event will not just be a book signing session, this is going to be used as a launching point to have a discussion about race and identity in America and how we can overcome the hurdles that are placed before in order to unite as one people irrespective of the labels we have been conditioned to accept.
For more information, email us at email@example.com. Click HERE or on the picture below to RSVP.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.