You buy a $100 bottle of wine instead of one for $20. Are you excited you splurged? Guilty you spent five times what you needed to? Wondering why your brain told you to do that? So fixated on determining the ideal way to share the vino with your followers you fail to notice your date already scrolling through Tinder at the table?
These are strange times for status, prestige and the increasingly complicated concept of “privilege.” Thanks to social media, all of us now have a shot at global fame. But when everyone has the ability to achieve status, no one is quite certain what it means. Enter Men’s Journal editor Chuck Thompson. As readers of his previous books know, Thompson is willing to ask tough questions. For instance, Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession mused, “Can we just get rid of some states already?”
The Status Revolution: The Improbable Story of How the Lowbrow Became the Highbrow is a very funny, surprisingly far-reaching attempt to determine what status means, with the help of everyone from celebrated neurologists to the “inventor” of the rescue dog phenomenon to Rick “Jesse’s Girl” Springfield. Some of Thompson’s discoveries are unnerving. His section on philanthropies for the ultrarich demonstrates how too often “charity” is just another word billionaires use for “tax shelter.” You’ll never look at the name on the side of a building the same way again. “Jets, yachts and jewelry are fine, but the ultrarich really keep score with buildings,” Thompson writes. “They’re the single most important way the wealthy flex.”
Ultimately, the book is a reminder we should all occasionally ask ourselves two crushing questions: How do I want the world to see me… and why do I want to be seen like that?