Monday, August 25, 2014

The Pritzker Family: A Truly Pathetic Display of ME, ME, ME in the Ice Bucket Challenge

Dr. Evil?
Pension Vocabulary: Plutocracy & Being Special like JB Pritzker

As a teacher in a somewhat affluent district, I remember those occasions, albeit rare, when a child of extreme wealth turned in a project or a carefully constructed item meant to broadcast the family’s high position and, there fore, the child’s pedigree.  Other students often marveled at the product, and in many cases even the wealthy child seemed a bit uncomfortable about the obvious over-the-top application of a theme or concept which was obviously produced by the family, not actually the child.

Penny Pritzker - see her in the video?
In fact, I remember those cases in my own life: a child in our 1950 grade school science etymology project turning in a seven-framed assortment of rare beetles collected from Madagascar to New Guinea by the family’s famous uncle.  My crude gathering of June bugs impaled upon bent pins seemed so meager, but we all understood that Willard’s show of force was, well, was for Willard to maintain his dominance.  And the teacher, Ms. Fears, was not about to question the sanctity of Willard’s nephew’s choices in our fieldwork.  We were limited to the south side of Chicago; Willard had his people around the globe to do the work.

Remarkably, this brings me to the recent spate of ice bucket challenges taking place on the Internet and in social media to help the ALS Association to fight the horror of Lou Gehrig’s disease.  My neighbors sat on the driveway yesterday in the brutal mid-day sun and had their children pour three buckets of cold water over their heads while Mom took the picture by phone and emailed it out to others.  Children and families participating in an altruistic effort to make a difference makes me smile…it always has.

One of our students back in those 1950’s asked to be excused from doing her project because she felt that pinning any bug to a soft wooden box bottom was a disgusting act, one worthless and unnaturally destructive.  She made me smile too.  I wasn’t ready to be her quite yet.  Ms. Fears didn’t like her much.  Judy went on to be a valedictorian.  Willard got in to Harvard.

JB Pritzker (worth $3.1 B)
There’s a lot of investigation about where this whole ice-bucket challenge began, but many think it was a minor league golfer named Chris Kennedy who started it, and the self-drenching was taken up quickly by others, even those who had been diagnosed with ALS.  Six days ago, donations were up nearly $23 million.  And the wealthy and famous?  They’re jumping in now. 

But while Justin Bieber and LeBron James and Bill Gates inundate themselves and co-opt a grass roots campaign into the realms of the very rich…I like my neighbors and others who do so and send a check for what they can afford.  Their video on Facebook does not go viral, nor does it call out the elite or aristocracy to play along.  It is real and heartfelt.  That makes me smile, too.

I happened to run across the latest little video taken – strike that.  If I said “taken,” I should have said carefully produced, orchestrated, and directed by the Pritzker family to become part of the new national assignment: the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Of course, like many things Pritzker, it is designed like Willard’s stuff was: to demonstrate dominance, power, connection, and name-dropping. 

Remember, the Pritzkers don’t just support education; they buy up a school and charter it, engraving their names on the limestone above the doors.   They don’t just run the Hyatt Corporation, they underpay their workers.  Penny, who works with Rahm to close CPS schools in the city, doesn’t buy a home, she takes up a block on Orchard in Lincoln Park.  J.B. is one of the top 200 billionaires in the world and seeks to change the nature of early childhood education to provide a U of C model for the masses.  They’re special.

Brother Tony.  Up to the challenge?
There’s something distinctive about the Willard’s in our world.  Take a look at JB Pritzker’s video below and wonder, as I did, at the deeper messages within.  This is once more a demonstration of power and influence, not necessarily assistance for the ALS Foundation.  And perhaps the description of extracting millions from “the people of Chicago” is more accurate than we could guess?  In actuality, this video is a notice to “insiders” and “big names” as to who I am – like a pathetic version of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”  “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” 

By the way, the $26,000 JB boasts he will give with his current wealth is the same as my neighbor’s devoting less than a dollar in his annual earnings. 

Will Tony take the challenge?  Will Rauner?


  1. The future for the Pritzkers and their ilk:

    "Look on my works...
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    --Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

  2. I'm very interested to view the video and see that it's not a working link. Is there another way to view? See here what JB apparently has in store for California: