DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.



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The most expensive home sold in New York City each year since 1982, adjusted for inflation. The very tall line is the $238 million penthouse. Credit via data from Jonathan Miller, courtesy New York Times

Stupidity is a human condition that is race blind. It is an equal opportunity affliction than crosses racial divides to be found in all corners of the globe. By chance, from time to time, a glaring example features a specific race – last summer it was Asia’s time in the limelight, ready for that Sunset Boulevard close up.    

Crazy Rich Asians, a film that got rave reviews, critics’ accolades, and made waves premiered late last August. It was nominated for twenty-one awards, winning four. It was touted as an all-Asian romantic comedy, that critics said was “bright, buoyant, and hilarious”, “an escapist rom-com delight”, that satisfied “the sweet tooth of romantic comedy fans” – entertainment, in my book, to avoid at all cost.

I confess of not having had the pleasure of seeing it at my neighborhood multiplex, so take my comments with a grain of salt. But as fate, or rather sheer laziness, extreme bad weather and nothing else to read would have it, I read both Crazy Rich Asians and Crazy Rich Girlfriend, two of the books upon which the film was based this week.

The books are about rich and privileged Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland Chinese and Malaysian young men and nubile women in a death spiral of acute terminal consumerism. They are in a perpetual state of arousal by affluence induced porn created by the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Dior, Altuzarra, Line Vautrin, Yves Saint Lauren, Alaïa, Cesare Attolini, Patek Philippe and on and on, ad nauseum.

These crazy rich Asians live and breed – yes, sex is the main ingredient of affluence porn – in exotic, luxurious locales: private dining clubs, five-star hotels, multimillion condominiums and other assorted haunts that are inaccessible to the likes of you and I.

All this urges you to admire these folks, to emulate them and to aspire to be more like them – join the consumerism of knock off merchandise, make do and be satisfied with stuff from Target, Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

I read the books during the fourth week of a government shutdown when 800,000 employees were working but not being paid. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck, with little or no savings. Some of them had to resort to charity food banks while others, security agents mainly, could not afford gas to get to airports and report for work. It was also the week that Melania Trump, the President’s wife, travelled to Mar a Lago on a government jet redecorated for $16 million to make it more to her liking – truly a Versailles moment.    

It was also the week that a hedge fund billionaire bought an apartment in New York for $238 million, after having bought a $60 million apartment in Miami and a $58.75 million Chicago penthouse, while another billionaire who happens to be the Secretary of the Interior said “there’s no real reason why [the government employees] shouldn’t be able to get a loan” to get by.

The reaction to Crazy Rich Asians and last week’s many Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” moments should have been revolution - with civilians singing the Marseillaise, calling for armed rebellion and demanding an end to economic tyranny, for vengeance while flying the bloodied flag of liberty – remember that scene from Rick’s Café in Casablanca? Didn’t happen - the working stiffs in terror for their jobs were afraid to demand their due.              

This same week, across the pond, police were battling “Yellow Vest” protesters in Paris, Bordeaux and other French cities. This grass root protest was started over a modest fuel tax increase - not a big deal - but large enough to affect the daily lives of middle-class citizens. It has grown to a broad revolt against the economic status quo resulting, so far, in 11 deaths, with injuries to 1,900 protesters and to 1,200 law enforcement officers.

This demonstration against the status quo was not meekly showing up at Washington’s National Mall sporting a pink knitted pussy hat. It was storming the Bastille exacting damage except that it was the luxury boutiques on the Place Vendôme and the Champs-Élisées that took the hit.   

Why are the French willing to protest economic disparity, economic inequality, economic servitude? Asia is awash in mind boggling poverty yet I haven’t heard of the “poor, huddled yellow masses yearning to breathe free” hitting the pavement in protest. In fact, the only “breathing free” Asia news I read this week was of Bangkok residents donning surgical masks to clean the air that the government has allowed to be perpetually fouled.

The French have always been the canary in the coal mine when it comes to political change. In the United States other canaries are starting to sing the song of change, Elizabeth Warren is advocating an assets-based tax and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes at 70% income tax rate for the wealthy. Perhaps Asians that make up more than half of the world’s population [4.463 billion people] will wake up and join in demanding just economic, if not political, change. Their voice could make the difference.     

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