I’m not mad when a model’s kid models or an actor’s kid acts. I haven’t moved beyond the emotion of anger, or anything, I’m just mad at other rich people. Sure, it’s annoying and disheartening that being someone’s favorite nephew or most symmetrical daughter is a cheat code for a nepo baby—that’s the slang du jour for a famous person’s child, in case you somehow didn’t know—in their creative field of choice. But at least we, the offspring of the non-famous, can take comfort in the fact that being a subject in the New York Magazine’s package on nepo babies is pretty fucking embarrassing. A picture of my face in print? With a little arrow pointing to my mom and dad? Love them, but I’d rather eat glass.
Anyway, nepo babies aren’t our real enemies. Our real enemies are their super-rich parents and the rest of the billionaire class who live like gods thanks to their vampiric draining of the world’s resources. Nothing exemplifies this drain better than a New Yorker article from July, made lightly viral thanks to a tweet by journalist Alex Press, about the unfathomably extravagant yacht culture that thrived during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every passage of the story, “The Haves and Have-Yachts,” is balls-to-the-wall insane. It explains how yachts are getting bigger lately—hundreds of feet long, instead of a puny fifty—as owners demand boats that can spend more time at sea, hold more supplies, and resist more adverse weathering. They’ve made room for IMAX movie theaters, dozens of crew members, life-sized ski slopes, and medical equipment that’s probably more advanced than what’s available at most clinics in the United States.
There are air-dropped bagels and rare melons, the most expensive Van Gogh painting ever sold, scale recreations of real naval battles, and “3-D-printed, architectural freestanding restaurants” that are flown “into the middle of the Maldives, on a sand shelf that can only last another eight hours before it disappears.” (Yeah, that last part is real, and it kind of looks like shit.)
Remarkably, the subjects of this piece openly admit to New Yorker staffer Evan Osnos that these boats are a place to sink money when they run out of other status-signifying shit to buy on land. As one longtime yacht owner put it:
“No one today—except for assholes and ridiculous people—lives on land in what you would call a deep and broad luxe life. Yes, people have nice houses and all of that, but it’s unlikely that the ratio of staff to them is what it is on a boat… Boats are the last place that I think you can get away with it.”
Osnos quotes another yacht owner speaking to a French documentary-maker as saying: “If the rest of the world learns what it’s like to live on a yacht like this, they’re gonna bring back the guillotine.” Uh, yeah, my thoughts exactly.
In case anyone missed it, this kind of luxury that comes at the expense of the rest of the world is only available to the planet’s 3,311 billionaires and their friends, like the Obamas, or Oprah, or Andy Cohen, who’ve all spent time on the super-yachts of their rich(er) friends. Meanwhile, per the latest data available, 650 million—or 1 in 12 people on the planet—live on less than $2.15 a day. Floods, earthquakes, and tropical storms wrack the Global South—more than 33 million people were displaced by flooding in Pakistan this year, a disaster that prompted the country’s climate minister to call for reparations from countries who burn the most fuel and contribute most to greenhouse gas emissions.
I’m never going to get cast on an HBO show. But I will always need to breathe the air that a single super-yacht pumps the CO2 equivalent of 1,526 normal cars into every year. In the interest of our own self-preservation, let’s keep our eyes on the real villains.