In a billionaire romance, the wealth of the one percent becomes a fantastical escape. At the same time, we don’t necessarily have to support “real life” billionaires. We can see the undeniable harm they cause to society.
One thing I wanted to do in the Omega on Top series was deconstruct the billionaire class. Boardroom touches on this lightly. Perce is a bit of a sociopath, but he comes around. We have vague implications that he and Jake are going to rethink how they do business.
The next book, Glitterati Omega, has no such qualms about diving in deeper. It’s part treatise on why capitalism and the billionaire class are inherently unethical. But it also looks at another dimension that we tend to forget: how they actually got their money.
Money Begets Money
We’ve all heard about the “riches-to-rags” story. Maybe it’s some aristocratic family that fell from grace or a retired football player who got rooked. These narratives suggest a good degree of downward mobility among the rich. That, in turn, promotes the idea that the rich don’t always stay rich.
Research, again, suggests this isn’t really true: the rich tend to stay rich. That’s class stratification. And when downward mobility doesn’t exist, upward mobility often doesn’t exist either. That means the poor stay poor.
The Rich Get Richer
Many of the richest families today have been rich for some time. And that means their fortunes also have histories—many of them written in the blood of colonialism.
Many of the nouveau riche that we laud today hide their wealthy connections. People are surprised to find out a celebrity has a famous parent or their family moved in certain circles.
This is even more true in the upper echelons. A peer of Britain is also a billionaire, yet we don’t talk much about him. Instead we focus on Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, who appear to be “self-made men.”
Yet we have to remember that colonialism made a lot of white Europeans dizzyingly wealthy. At least some of those family fortunes still exist today. Wealthy American families that thrive off oil are also reaping the benefits of colonialism. The land where those oil deposits are situated belongs to Native Americans. Today, the true owners of the land live on tiny reserves with few facilities. They are often poisoned by the very same oil operations that make other so rich.
Colonialism and capitalism, then, go hand in hand. And nowhere is that more evident than in the transatlantic slave trade. It exploited people as a “natural resource” on the African continent, ripping apart whole cultures in the name of profit.
And that money—as the rich get richer—stays in the family, often for generations.
The Tale of Elon Musk
I saw a picture of Elon Musk’s mother, which someone had captioned: Oh, yes, that’s definitely a colonial emerald mine super villainess. She looked like she’d been cast as the evil stepmother in a Disney film.
That made me dig into Musk’s history a little bit. Musk is often held up like Bezos and Gates as being a sort of self-made man.
Musk is actually more “billionaire playboy.” Tesla might be a good idea, but Musk is not necessarily the man to helm it. Some of his other ideas are … questionable, at best.
Musk’s father worked in real estate (land development) and as an engineer. At one point, he held some stakes in an emerald mine. They may not be the original perpetrators of colonialism, but they’re still benefiting from it. Under other circumstances, that mine and the emeralds it produces would belong to the Indigenous peoples.
Musk says he worked his way through college and paints himself as just having “gotten lucky,” in some senses. Yet the fact he went to college, that he had money for investment to gamble, suggests privilege at work. In all likelihood, some of the wealth that Elon Musk uses to fund Tesla or SpaceX (or buy Twitter) is directly linked to colonialism.
Putting the Billionaire Romance Face to Face with Colonialism
In Glitterati Omega, Rupert’s (fictional) family is British in origin. They’ve been in South Africa much longer than Musk’s family. Rupert’s history extends back to the 1800s.
Rupert is unaware of his own privilege in this. Like most white people, he is unaware of the underlying mechanisms of colonialism. In fact, he believes colonialism is “over,” that we’ve moved in a truly “post-“colonial state. (Colonialism is alive and well, even if you’d like to argue it’s now “neo-”colonialism.)
Like most billionaire romance MCs, Rupert doesn’t think much about where the fortune comes from. To him, ownership is natural and normal. The violence of colonialism is overwritten with more sanitized narratives.
In short: Rupert does not see the harm. Even if he did, he’d believe it’s all in the past. He would ignore or dismiss current harm being perpetrated by colonial states and structures across the world today.
So when Rupert falls head over heels for a Black South African alpha, he has to confront the reality of ongoing colonial violence.
For Winston, the legacy of colonial violence and Rupert’s massive fortune present stumbling blocks to their relationship. A solution emerges: Rupert needs to dismantle his fortune, among other things, if he wants to be with Winston.
What Does It Mean to Decolonize?
A billionaire giving their fortune away isn’t instantly decolonization. We can look at Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, for truth in that. And there is a certain danger in allowing billionaires to simply toss money to people they like.
Mackenzie Scott is maybe doing a lot of good with her money bombs. But her money could also do good if it went to fund public healthcare or better public education.
Yet paying taxes props up the colonial state, with all its violence and racism. There is no guarantee the money will go to healthcare. In the US, as an example, that money is more likely to go into the American war machine—which perpetuates (neo)colonialism.
Paying taxes to a violent colonizer state isn’t necessarily solving the problem, is what I’m saying. Then again, neither are “money bombs” that are left to the ever-changing whims of a perhaps unstable trillionaire.
Dismantling the Billionaire in Other Ways
So, if Rupert paying his taxes and dropping “money bombs” into the economy isn’t decolonizing, what is?
Some of those “money bombs” could be decolonizing efforts. Money could go to initiatives to alleviate poverty or provide education to disadvantaged groups. Within the state, additional tax money could potentially go toward healthcare or social support services. (As noted, there’s no guarantee).
Decolonization also includes efforts like land back, which Rupert also engages in within the story. Yet the idea of ownership is often violence against peoples who don’t define “property” the same way eurocentric ideologies do.
To give land back, to return it, is an effort to decolonize.
The Trap of the Colonial State
Other decolonizing efforts might recognize sovereign nations. Here in Canada, the government is supposed to deal with Indigenous Nations as though those Nations are other countries. Negotiations, agreements, and so on are supposed to respect Indigenous sovereignty.
They rarely do, though. Land claims give Nations control of their traditional territories. But they still do not free Indigenous peoples from the colonial state, which refuses to treat them as sovereign nations.
I’d imagine the same is true—or worse—in South Africa. Apartheid resulted in many of the same traumas as the reserve system here, such as forced relocation. The nomenclature is different, but the idea—and end result—is similar.
So, to truly decolonize, land back is a first step. But it must go further than ownership under the legal regime of a colonialist state. That’s not sovereign, and that’s not respectful of many Indigenous cultures. It’s not truly decolonizing; it’s merely imposing colonial structures on peoples who remain colonized.
To truly decolonize, we have to escape the machinations of the colonial state. That might mean not only creating a truly sovereign state on returned lands but also refusing Western forms of government. Many “freed” colonies have become battlegrounds for world powers as they seek to install a government sympathetic to them. The goal is often securing favorable terms to exploit the natural resources of the former colony.
This is why we say colonialism has not ended. We have not moved into a postcolonial world, let alone a decolonized one. Instead, colonialism has merely reinvented itself. Colonizers operate behind the scenes and cut deals with sympathetic puppet governments.
Decolonizing Culture in the Billionaire Romance
Deconstructing the colonialist state is … difficult, to say the least. Even if a people were able to get their land back, they’re still under the colonizer state. Rupert can give the land back, but that transaction happens under South African law. That legal framework operates under the euro-western paradigm. The land is still part of “South Africa’s” territories, which undermines the sovereignty of the people who live there.
Dismantling state structures is a big project. And it meets with violent responses from colonizer states. Here in North America, protesters are met with police violence and arrests. Governments battle Indigenous Nations for control of their lands in courts. Everywhere, the colonial state looks to maintain its power.
Perhaps, then, we also need to look at the decolonization of culture. That’s something else Glitterati Omega explores to some degree. Part of Rupert’s journey is the recognition that euro-western value systems hurt him too.
Rupert’s wealth and whiteness give him incredible privilege. Yet, in this billionaire romance, we see he is also repeatedly victimized and harmed by that same system. He comes to believe that he deserves the abuse. Rupert is unable to trust other people. He thus becomes more isolated—and more vulnerable to abusers and capitalist exploitation.
Waking up to that reality is painful. The system seems so natural and normal, there is no obvious alternative. How can you escape colonial culture when colonial culture is so pervasive?
Dispelling the Allure of the Billionaire in Romance
Here, we can turn to the many Indigenous cultures of the world to see that alternatives do exist. Thousands of cultures have thrived around the world, operating under different systems of belief than the euro-western model. While it presents itself as the “only” answer, merely speaking with someone from an Indigenous culture often reveals the lie.
Capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, patriarchy—these systems of violence and exploitation are not natural and normal. And they are not the only way to be in the world.
Decolonizing culture, then, is an equally important step in dismantling the chokehold colonizer capitalism has on our world. The colonial state devalues Indigenous ideas, beliefs, and cultures in order to maintain its own power. After all, if suddenly we had alternatives that promised us more—would we not all abandon ship?
And that’s what the colonial state fears. It knows there are other, better alternatives out there. So it lies to us and presents those alternatives as somehow subpar, lesser, ineffective.
That is, in part, what a billionaire romance like Glitterati Omega is exploring: alternative ways of being, ways to escape the violence of the colonial capitalist state—which harms everyone, no matter their position within that system.
When we realize that—as Rupert does—then we begin to know that we have nothing to lose. We have everything to gain by dismantling the web of colonial capitalism.