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Does Proxy Argue for the Affluenza Defense?

Alex London had it right: money and privilege is an excellent excuse when called to defend deplorable actions. Consider Ethan Couch, the Texas teen who received 10 years of probation for killing four people while driving drunk last June. According to his defense, Couch suffered from "affluenza," a term described by psychologists as the ability to shift blame to one's wealthy parents for neglecting to set realistic limits and consequences for poor behaviour. The defense worked and Couch received no jail time.

Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it sure can erase responsibility. But bad decisions always have consequences for someone. Just ask the families of Couch's victims.

For Knox, a rich, spoiled patron in London's book Proxy, life is nothing but a wild ride meant to be pushed to the limit. His absentee father pays little attention to Knox's actions, but for Syd, his proxy of more than a decade, Knox's decisions result in immense pain and suffering. Every time Knox screws up it's Syd who receives the beating. Sure, Knox has to watch, but one becomes pretty detached after witnessing it a few hundred times.

In a world where debts must be dissolved by taking punishment for those who can pay, a proxy is only as lucky as his patron is responsible. And Knox is the least responsible patron of all.

And then Knox makes the worst mistake possible and Syd barely survives the consequence.

Weeks later, by sheer coincidence, Knox and Syd come face to face for the first time.

Now it's patron against proxy. Place your bets.


This wasn't about him. It was his patron. It had nothing to do with Syd. That was his weakness. When he got to thinking, it always turned back on himself, his failings, his mistakes. But he didn't matter in this. He was just a body for the rich to use and to discard when it suited them. That was his place, his market niche, as they called it. He was a proxy and his life was on loan. (72)

[Knox] wasn't worried about breaking the rules. If you could pay, the rules were yours to break. He was worried that he'd crossed some line where the rules he lived by no longer applied, past where his status, his father's money, or his charm would do any good. (178)

"I believe you, Knox," said Syd, his voice so soft that Knox had to lean toward him to hear. "And I don't care," Syd whispered. "Got it? I believe you're sorry. I. Don't. Care. I don't want your sorry. Live with your guilt. It's the one debt you owe me and I don't ever, ever want it repaid." (273)

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