Fishy Fishy

Posted On: 03 Apr 2024 by Damien Matthews

Damien Matthews

Fishy Fishy

Had cause to visit Palm Beach twice last year. A place much in the news due to Donald Trump’s residency, and 2024 being a US presidential year. Thin strip of flat land, even thinner beach, the brittle rich padded down in big houses. Nothing there really. Nearby a private runway flies them in and out regardless. Three drawbridges across, and its own private (wealth-friendly) police force gives the ‘island’ an illusion of safety. Protection from the potentially unpredictable poor.

Munch, munch, munch go tremendous material resources to these too-rich too-few inhabitants. Might it be valid to suggest that America’s model of raw capitalism needs change? I’m all for the person who builds a business, honestly, and reaps a reward. Rightly so. But Palm Beach may be the extreme example of the uselessness of a place, once wealth over-gorged. It’s a place where insatiable lust for wealth is given a pat on the head. Well done you for being SUPER greedy. An exemplary illustration of what raw, wealth-grabbing capitalism can bring, if society isn’t careful. That’s why I write about it here. Well that, and to be totally honest, trying to write a blog about art, antiques or auctioneering that anyone might find interesting had me scratching my head. This subject just sort of popped into it while looking at a blank page. Might as well type a truth while I’m waiting. But there’s a little exchange at the end which sort of epitomises it all. So, please, continue, if I haven’t bored you already.

Winner takes all capitalism was useful to America, when it had to get from Indian held scrubland to skyscraper clad landscape. Capitalism is what gave America the Great Leap Forward. But now that the Agrarian & Industrial Revolutions have passed, and we’re going through the throes of the Technological Revolution, is it still needed, in its current American form? Can it not soften, or at least be toned down? Does a man (or woman) really need to grab so much that they can over-provide for the future generations of their seed too, bringing along an entitled strain? What’s that about? Shouldn’t everyone make their own way in the world, be tested by it? Padding progeny with unearned wealth, what good does it really do? What will they learn if they never know an empty bank account let alone an empty fridge. How will they be tested? Educate and lead by example, but after that, shouldn’t they be on their own. They'd learn more. Is this such a bad thing? What is it with the wealth-legacy obsession nonsense that has the supposed upper echelons of America agog? Are the children so weak as not to be able to think, or fend, for themselves? Is it fear, or is it ego - my child, my grandchild, my great-grandchild, WILL go to Harvard! What am I missing? Do I lack empathy? Get the whole providing for your children thing, but…… come on.

An amusing aside. Desmond Guinness, lovely man now deceased, back in the 70s, was told by an acquaintance that he had some cousins living in Ireland that he didn’t know, Guinness’s direct down the original Arthur Guinness bloodline – but down the non-money side. Oh goody, he said, let’s go visit Sunday. Sunday came, and off they went from Leixlip Castle, arriving two hours later at another estate. A council estate. And there they were, Guinness cousins, and all just about to tuck into a roast chicken Sunday lunch. “Come in, come in”, they said. Nicer people you couldn’t meet, and half the table the double of him. But no Eaton, no Oxford, no Annabels had they seen. Most distressing for poor Desmond, shocked he was, these cousins had not the privileges he enjoyed. He left shook. He knew how lucky he was. By birth, unearned, he possessed a large padding income. But, to be fair to him, he did some good with it. Generally a lot of them do little to nothing, because they don’t have to. And all wrapped up in a tax free trust, just like Desmonds. But, you know, sitting down with truly loving and caring family members for Sunday lunch, no matter the wealth or education, is the greatest privilege of all. 

Now I really am boring you. Look up at the clock, giving this ten more minutes and that’s it, off for a swim. Can I round it out, this unsolicited thought in my head in ten minutes? Let's see. Country auctioneer running to seed goes off on pointless rant!

Just how much mansion/plane/yacht/car/wardrobe does one over-entitled person need? It's what's in you that counts, not what's on you, or around you. Elon Musk, recently his Fifty-Five Billion Dollar Tesla Share Performance Bonus presented for validity in a Delaware Court. This, on top of various other billions incoming from non-related companies, share splits and bonuses. Come on, come on! Get real. The board of Tesla in a misguided defence (and also its top shareholders) stated they wanted to give Musk the dopamine hit of billions each time he hit a share-value target. Treating poor Elon like a Pavlov dog dry humping after the money. Brains to burn that fellow but.... might be better served cooling the jets - humanity needs to slow down, not speed up. Or leave the earth. Big misdirection in my book. Let's truly care for this planet, before we go off and destroy another one. I get why he smokes a lot of cannabis, to cope. The self-pressure and fear that drives him must be immense. A billion btw is a thousand million. No one. Not two. Not three. Not a hundred. But one thousand, millions. Fifty five thousand millions, in pure personal gain. Pass the bucket. Gross on a level I can't even comprehend.

Easy for me to preach, I’m your typical pale and stale male. Possessed of hopefully enough that if medical catastrophe visits me or those I care for, I can cope. Or, if God should stay his hand and I’ve to endure the wrinkling shrinking & shuffling episode, I can pay my way. Hopefully. The fear of not having enough, or losing it, drives us all in the capitalist system. The bigger the fear the bigger the drive. But it's a mental illness actually when it gets to the level of these ‘super wealth achievers’. Therapy is what's needed, not a share split. It can be pretty grim up there in that orbit. After a lot of living I’ve discovered that the world is full of lovely people. There’s nothing to fear, it’s a beautiful world. No matter what happens, if you keep getting out of the bed something always turns up. It’s kind of designed that way. Think about it, every time you’ve thought, “My God, this is a disaster, I’m done for”, something turns up. Has for me anyhow.

We’re extremely lucky in Western Europe; basically free education and healthcare (none of that in America, can understand some of their fear). We also have, over here (despite how much we may moan about it), a multitude of State Welfare assistance, solid infrastructure, well-funded social networks and initiatives, safe travel networks, the option of buying at a fair price healthy food. Could go on, but every European knows it. Western Europe is the apex of achievement in this softer more civilized approach. Socially Aware Capitalism I suppose we could call it. Something to be protected. Contributed to. Cherished. I’ve no gripe whatsoever in paying my taxes - so long as the system itself doesn’t get bogged down, top-heavy with an entitled ‘Lord-Over-You’ political class, the quangos. Managers for managers. Don’t get me started on all that. They’re supposed to work for us, governments, we don’t work for them. It’s not China folks, the state doesn’t own our physical bodies. So long as that’s the general rule, and the taxes are fair, I’m happy enough.

Now that I’m at it (God he drones on, I apologise), what’s with the American over-the-top-show-of-force Presidential Cavalcade; Two Bomb Proof Main limousines on hand, flown everywhere at a cost of many millions, twenty or thirty top-of-range Cadillac SUVs, with more Humvees, two Air Force Ones, choppers, hundreds of Secret Service agents trotting about the place, etc, etc. When President Biden came to visit us they put all those ugly plastic 'security' stickers on top of the road bollards in the Phoenix Park (saw them), hundreds, if not thousands. But they didn’t hang around afterwards to take them off. That wasn't very caring, or respectful. To me it spoke volumes. And anyway, Hello, it’s a bomb-proof limousine.

Why not rein it all in, this mansplaining american government spend. Lead by example. Trim the bureaucratic fat. Love America, love freedom. But I don’t love waste. And I don’t like political showboating. Yes, we know, America since 1973 can print the dollar freely with no gold-reserve link. That could be part of the problem. Actually., it's a major, major part of the problem. And it’s the reserve currency of the world too. But such a bad example to other governments this continual lavish over-spend. Too many copy-catting countries have fleets of top marque cars currying ambassadors about the place to impress. 

Don’t wish to come off all Marxist, I’m all up for a bottle of good Claret and occasional fine meal, just as much as anyone. But every day? Travelling first or private, every day? Every day with three or five homes? Every day, with ten plus staff pandering to insecure personal whims? Every day, a wardrobe (haute) costing minimum e500,000 to e2,000,000 a year, just to stay semi-current? This they do in Palm Beach. Loads of them. This is wrong. Whether you earned the money yourself, or not. Whether you’re in a government, private or corporate capacity, it is wrong. To be so insecure as to want to be part of a set that sees power-money display as the ultimate positioning of one’s values, or human worth? Something has gone grossly, grossly wrong. Time for a re-set. Better brains than mine have the answer, but without doubt, it’s time to call for it.

Imagine (since we mentioned Musk) if extraterrestrials looked down at our world and saw the fiscal masturbatory self-stroking going on? What would they think? They got THAT planet, and they did THAT with it? EXTERINATE EXTERMINATE!! Kidding, but reason won’t be re-mounting it’s throne anytime soon in Palm Beach. Or places like it (Dubai, my God!). Gives humanity a bad name. They smell of the last days of Rome, but without actually having given the world anything in return. Just take. Grab and take. Where's the caring. Cautionary places. Reverse role models.

If I was a disadvantaged American, knouted since birth by the system, and no good example to follow, no question, I’d be straight up and over those Palm Beach walls in a balaclava. Get the better wine to drink and the jewellery to sell. In fact, I’m surprised it’s not a burglar-fest over there ALL the time. Maybe it’s the Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out, or the a-Handgun-for-All model that’s holding it back, this potential crime wave. Its paper thin, sensed it on my visits. The police are well armed in Palm Beach. They need to be. Them vs Us is no model for harmony.

American prisons brim with the disenfranchised. Can they be rehabilitated? Most probably not. When was it ever a smart move to crowd together thousands of downtrodden people, punish them. Then let them out again ‘rehabilitated’. Like American healthcare, many a vested hard-nosed raw profit seeking capitalist interest keeps the status-quo tightly intact.

The over-rich, to give good appearance, dole out regular tokens of untaxed, or lightly-taxed wealth via foundations, charitable bequests and the like. Our own super-rich do it too. JP McManus doesn’t pay much in the line of taxes. Domiciled in Zurich I think. Hands out a little every now and then, keeps the smell good. Patronage the Romans called it, keeps the under-classes appreciative. We’re so grateful. We’d be more grateful if you’d paid all your taxes where you were born and bred like the rest of us. Contribute fully to your society, not just the sectors that you wish to enjoy favour with, or encourage to your own benefit. Living between the lines to play the system is not fair on society. If you're capable of building such wealth, share it and be modest. What’s with the Versaille-on-Steroids Rathkeale McMansion. Built for one man? Come on, shame. Is the ego or insecurity that big? Poor taste. Appreciate that he’s a much loved son handing out all the free hurleys. But he's playing society. That’s how I honestly feel about it anyway. Guess he’s not going to be pulling up anytime soon in the Bentley to bid on a chest of drawers for the guest bedroom (all thirty of them). Too bad.

Wouldn’t it be deplorable if they didn’t hand out anything at all? I know, I know. Great idea. Let’s all dress up in designer gowns and tight faces and have a charity ball. That costs two million to put on and raises three. Or is it costs three to put on and raises two? Doesn’t matter. Hello?

An open sewer of thinly coated social-aware philanthropy, that’s Palm Beach. A true fue d’artifice. But comparatively they don’t give so much, comparatively. Sounds good on paper but what they tend to give is ‘least’ - least in comparison to what they’ve over-accumulated. Or, in the case of offspring, what they’ve been handed un-earned since birth. Even Warren Buffett, the arch capitalist (and a man I actually do admire, for his straight-up no BS talk) has a real problem with it. It served its purpose, this raw selfish material-eating capitalism. Society should not continue to indulge it. Time for a change. God I’m really turning into an old grump now, really am. Where did this all come from. I sit down to write a short blog on art or something and here we are. My apologies, one more minute and it’s done, I’m off for that swim.

To be fair, did meet some lovely people in Palm Beach. Not the society sort. Honestly, 95% plus of them are, and I say this kindly, but followers. All eyes on the door staying tightly in line with the tribe, at all costs. Why darling, social exclusion would be death!

It was actually those who serve them that gave me the greatest kick.

Nicole at the bar of The Four Seasons (the better house wine $59 a glass - her mother catering manager at Mar-a-Lago), the guy who took myself and my nephew out fishing for half a day ($900 - that’s me in the photo with my morning’s work), the barber who cut my hair ($85). Crazy. Problem is, I’m not rich. Not so rich as to spend a Palm Beach season the wrong side of a wallet, even if I wanted to. No, not for me.

Ordering a drink at The Four Seasons. Me-to-Nicole. First words, ”Is there much wine in the glass for the $59?”                                                                                                                                                                                                          Her-to-me, looking straight and deep into my eyes, “I have a beautiful pour”                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ideal woman for an Irish Auctioneer.

Get chatting to a fellow at the bar. Turns out he installs entertainment systems into the mansions. We speak at length. He says it’s all nuts, the needless updating. But a bucks a buck. Explains to me that above a certain level the human ear can’t discern the difference. Really, it can’t. It’s just about being seen to have the very latest, the most expensive equipment. One-upmanship. Continual updating. Continual. God forbid they’d be out of date. $200,000 to a $1,000,000 a pop those up-dates he said. A million. Big bucks just serving a ‘need’.

He’s about the same age as myself but shorter. Very competitive looking. Lined, tanned, with a muscular twitchy awareness.

So we’re talking. Ask him what he does in his free time, when he’s not ripping out the speakers.

“Oh, fish. I really like to fish” He downs another tequila.

“What kind of fish?”

“Game fish, all sorts of fish”


“Well, I got three houses, one up at the Florida Keys, one out on the coast of Mexico and another on Hawaii, each with its own jetty and boat. Always primed, always ready to go”

“You must catch a lot of fish?”

“Wanna see?”

Takes out his phone, pulls up a photo.

“Best one-day haul” he says with pride

“In a single day?”


The photograph.

He’s kneeling, three bored sunburnt Mexicans stand behind him. Slaughterhouse of dead fish laid out in front and on the ground. More hang from poles running either-side of the jetty, Charles Darwin style. Species of every kind and size.

Three hundred and eight two he said. Three hundred and eight two fish.

Ask him a not unreasonable question.

“So, what do you do with all the fish?”

“Feed the poor”