Poor in Spirit

Do you know who Tamara Eccelstone is?

Tamara Ecclestone photographed by Tyler Shields

I had never heard of her until I saw the headline for this photograph that described Eccelstone as “rolling in her own dough.” Apparently, Tyler Shields, a celebrity photographer, asked her to secure one million pounds of cash to be used in a photo shoot that features her not only rolling around in money but also ironing it. These photographs center on conspicuous consumption. I was shocked that Shields and Ecclestone would think this an appropriate moment in history to celebrate the wealth that she did not earn. (Ecclestone’s father, Bernie Eccelstone, is the CEO of Formula One and her material wealth derives from her father.) According to the Daily Mail, the photo shoot coincides with the debut of a reality show about the heiress. I don’t think the show is going to air in the United States but it’s not like we’ll be missing out given that we already have a slew of reality shows celebrating material excess on this side of the pond.

In a culture where it has become typical of everyone from talk show hosts to common citizens to refrain from making harsh accusations against the decision making of others, I am going break this trend: These photographs are disgraceful. These two ought to be ashamed of themselves. People are losing their homes, out of work, hungry, sick, and overwhelmed with debt and these two think it’s a good idea to publicize this woman’s wastefulness as glamour? They clearly have no idea how ugly these photographs are or they wouldn’t have shown them. Where are all the people who criticize hip hop artists for their bling? These photographs deserve the same kind of ire.

For all my talk of the importance of cultivating a rich interior life, I am not naive about the importance of having resources. I fully support Articles 22-27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (…as these are the ones that most support this particular discussion. In general, I value this document in its entirety). “Freedom from want,” as FDR would have it, is important for being able to cultivate one’s interior life. In the United States, in order to be free from want, you need money.

You don’t need very much money, though, to have a good life. Though Eccelstone has more than enough money, I do not admire the way she has chosen to portray her life. She admires waste far more than I think is necessary. Given how much she and Shields ignore about the circumstances of those around them, she is socially neglectful and seemingly disdainful of others. Indeed, “there are other models by which to live” and money alone does not guarantee you access to them.

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