I have many bad habits: terrible parking, teeth grinding, slouching, swearing, interrupting, drinking, smearing my mascara on my pillow. But until recently, I didn't ever really think of myself as a snob. I guess snobs don't. ("I'm not a snob," said Simon Le Bon. "Ask anybody. Well, anybody who matters.")

But the Rich List comes out next week, and there is also a new documentary just released by Lauren Greenfield called Generation Wealth, investigating why such a large swathe of contemporary society is so in thrall to glaringly visible displays of individual wealth. I didn't think I was in thrall to it. But now, I'm wondering.

Oh, I'm not fussed about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians. I buy my clothes second hand. A kind friend dyes my hair in the kitchen sink. I don't like rich person accoutrements like skiing or golf, or real estate or marble or silk scatter cushions.


I have never liked travelling anywhere, including exotic locales. (As Bojack Horseman said: "What do film stars like? Limos, nannies, and flying their private jets to disaster areas so they can "help out." Ugh. )

Being ultra-rich often seems to me to be accompanied by a kind of grim, constipated pressure. In this country so many rich people seem to spend their time like upmarket property managers, dealing with the demands of running more than one home. No thanks! And having "help" means more people to organise.

Personally, I find it hard enough dealing with the occasional babysitter and pest exterminator. (Try not to get those two mixed up.)

So until now, I thought I wasn't a snob because I don't covet a rich person's lifestyle. I rather enjoy a good sneer at the 1 per cent. (So much money, yet so little taste). Yet, of course, I now realise this makes me an equally frightful, inverse snob.

Which is apparently just as bad. The New Republic says inverse snobbery can serve as a mechanism of class surveillance and control, serving to entrench social hierarchies.

University of Oxford philosopher Neel Burton says there has been increase in inverse snobbery as a result of such rapid social change: Brexit, Donald Trump and the ebbing of power from traditional, cultured elites.

Inverse snobbery can be understood as an ego defence against the status claims of others. Threatened by anything associated with wealth or social status, the inverse snob elevates the popular, the ordinary and the commonplace. (I wear jewellery from the Dargaville Warehouse, think white bread toasties are an under-rated delicacy and watch Britain's Got Talent.)

This is all fine and well, but what I would like to know is: So what is the correct response to the obscene wealth of the ultra-rich? If you aren't impressed by it (snobbery), you don't scoff at it (inverse snobbery), what is an acceptable way to be okay that this tiny clique of often quite execrable wealthy people wield such disproportionate power?


I don't know the answer. Apart from giving away everything you own and advocating for revolution, perhaps. My nephew is an anarchist and I can see the appeal.

It would certainly be a relief to escape this consumer treadmill which means status signifiers morph and get increasingly subtle, but they still whisper "nyah-nyah-nyah" — it's just oneupmanship in a more nuanced guise.

In her new book The Sum of Small Things, public policy scholar Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, points out how in an age of deepening inequality, the upwardly mobile now define themselves through the accrual of cultural capital, rather than, say, logo handbags.

"This is why a $2 heirloom tomato purchased from a farmers market is so symbolically weighty of aspirational class consumption and a white Range Rover is not.

"Rich oligarchs and the middle class can both acquire 'stuff,'" Currid-Halkett says, but, for the aspirational class, it is members' eagerness to acquire knowledge that sets them apart from everyone else.

Oh dear, guilty as charged. I like to acquire knowledge! I collect memorable quotes like other people collect designer shoes. Is this bad too?

Economist Tyler Cowan, in his new book, The Complacent Class, might say yes. He argues that the affluent have got more smug — "stubbornly self-satisfied" — and well, ahem. Awkward silence from me.

So there you have it. I can't find a rinky-dink answer for how to live with the ultra-rich without hating them, or hating yourself. The only conclusion to which I clumsily grope, is that perhaps we could try to transcend status signifiers altogether and replace them with a recognition of our shared humanity.

Is it possible to have empathy for someone with a private jet? After all, no amount of money can make up for (to quote Joe Queenan) three crummy marriages and a bad combover.

Maybe the real status symbol is managing to bring up kids who won't grow up to hate you. Or to take care of your ageing rellies and make sure they get a nice send-off.

That is truly something to aspire to, even if I still can't parallel park and am too lazy to take my makeup off at night.