On Work and Money: Part Two

By Troy Headrick

If you haven’t already done so, you might want to have a look at part one.  That one was mostly about work.  This second piece will be more focused on money; although, work and money really go hand in hand because without the former, the latter is hard to come by.

In part one, I mentioned (and linked to) “The Shame that Keeps Us in Our Jobs,” an article by Paul Millerd.  The Millerd piece was interesting because the author talked about “the elephant in the room,” a truth about America and American culture that we all know exists but are too reticent (for whatever reason) to talk about.  Perhaps we stay mum because the truth says something about us that is discomforting?  Namely, that many Americans have this firmly held belief that rich people are better than others because they are rich.  On the flip side, there is something wrong with the poor—their poverty proves they are made of inferior stuff.  Of course, this is the wildest sort of crazy thinking, but that doesn’t keep many people from fully embracing it.  Furthermore, I suspect that there are many other countries where individuals have similar beliefs.

Writing this piece gave me the opportunity to learn and use a new word—heroize, a verb.  To heroize a person is to make him or her into a hero. 

It seems that Americans (and likely others) have a relatively new habit of heroizing the uber-rich.  Of course, there have always been heroes, but I find it a bit disturbing that the sort of individuals we lionize is undergoing an insidious transformation.    

When I was a child, I had heroes.  The television was filled with cartoons and serials featuring superheroes and ordinary “good guys,” like cops and lawyers and those who work to ensure that justice prevails or good things happen.  Heroes have traditionally been defined by the kind of behavior they engage in.  They protect the vulnerable.  They engage in altruistic acts both large and small.  They vanquish evil, making sure that good always wins in the end.  Heroes serve as examples; they become those we hope to emulate.

Rob Hutton, in “Our Super-Rich Superheroes,” does a really good job of both examining the cultural roots of why we look up to the wealthy and providing lots of pop culture examples of such heroes.  He writes that this shift in the sort of people we laud began to gather momentum “in the middle of the 20th century, where celebrating the wealthy was a key element of anti-Communism.”

Is there any wonder why those in the middle-class and the working poor suffer from low self-esteem that can, in extreme cases, look a lot like self-loathing? 

It’s this tendency to worship the wealthy that sets the stage for someone like Donald Trump to become president.

We all exist within society and culture, and thus we must constantly guard against allowing the views and values espoused by the whole to shape how we see ourselves.

I look forward to reading your responses.  Consider these questions as you respond:  Are the rich really better than the rest of us?  If not, why do so many think so?

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

46 thoughts on “On Work and Money: Part Two

  1. We live in a capitalist society – the rich really aren’t “better” than the rest of us, however being rich is society’s definition of success. When I was younger I really fell into the trap of once I have all of the things, I will be happy. It doesn’t work like that. People, relationships and connections matter…not things.

    1. It’s easy to fall into that trap when everyone is saying the same thing and there are no alternative views being spoken. Lots of young people get swept up in such thinking. I’m happy that you were able to “grow up” intellectually. Many people remain children in their thinking all their lives. Thanks very much the comment.

  2. Hello Troy!
    I live in Europe and the feeling of society is a bit different here. There are rich and poor here as well, no question about it. Those who have and those who want to have…Here there are also royal families that are just a little bit more equal than the ordinary mortals (to paraphrase from Orwell´s Animal Farm)… even if they live royally off high taxes. Why?
    What I can say from this side of the ocean is that it seems that “rich and/ or famous” has become a character trait. Sounds strange, doesn´t it? Yet, often it seems to be so important that a person will be judged as a human being based only on the material possessions and “how many followers” scale…
    have a great day

    1. Hi. I do think there is an increasing desire for people to want to be famous, “go viral,” get a huge number of followers, as you say. Europe is an entirely different animal than America. The former is much more collective in its thinking and values than is the US. The US is really radical when it comes to its individualism. Plus, it’s a lot more religious than Europe; although, there are signs that this is changing. There has long been a religious belief that wealth is a sign from god that one is “chosen,” more pious, whatever. Pop culture really pushes the idea that the rich are cooler than the rest of us. There are many movies, etc, about rich folks but far fewer about those who are poor. The rich have been romanticized. Thanks very much for a European perspective.

  3. Many of us have grown up seeing, reading, and listening to instances of wealth over mind and matter. Take the basic fairy tale, it’s never really ‘happily ever after’ till a prince or princess saves the day and helps an impoverished soul discard their dismal life for royal splendour.
    Yes, many other factors do a play a part in such stories, but without the gleam of riches, there is little that attributes to the feeling of being awe-inspired. Even children can differentiate between plainness and luxury.
    Numerous shows, songs, movies glorify money and its inherent power. Who doesn’t dream of gaining that coveted status and the freedom to get what they want and when they want it.
    The rich are not better, they have just gained a better reputation by all this free propaganda. Expensive objects have replaced the richness of values and character. A higher price tag doesn’t ensure greater value, its more a superficial satisfaction, a display of money, hence power.
    The rich pat each other’s backs and open doors for one another. This remains unchartered territory for the middle class and poor.
    And something unobtainable always appears to give the greatest pleasure.
    Warped human psychology.
    Thank you for this mind-twisting question. 🙂

    1. Your point about fairytales, princes, and princesses is spot on. When I was a kid, there was a TV show called “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” This show was nothing more than a romantization of how the uber-rich live and how much different their lives are than the rest of us. There are countless other examples. When watching American movies, I always pay attention to the settings. They are always set in places of affluence.

      Thinking people are able to see this sort of stuff for what it is, but the masses eat up (like it tastes good). Being a thinker often feels like a very free but lonely life.

      Thank you for another intelligent response.

      1. I totally agree with you. And thank you for sharing such deep and relevant aspects of life and living. They keep the mind on its toes.

  4. Thank you for this question, the opportunity to think over this, the economics of it.

    Are the rich better than rest of us ?
    Yes, in hoarding money.

    Obviously, the cashflow dictates that without the poor, the rich cannot be formed, while the hoarding ensures that rich becomes richer and poor becomes poorer, thereby making the cashflow unidirectional.

    However, anything unidirectional cannot theorize a balance, without an opposite force.

    Therefore, it is noteworthy that the dichotomy of rich and poor is essentially that of money and work – the capacity of money and the ability to work. While money is the currency of the rich, the work is the currency of the poor. So, in terms of work, the so-called rich is poor and the so-called poor is rich.

    1. Wow! There is so much to love about your comment. As you point, there is a symbiotic relationship between the rich and the poor. The poor have to work for the rich to survive and the rich exploit the poor to maintain their socioeconomic position.

      You are right, there is no equalibrium or balance in a country full of haves and have nots. Political scientists tell us that countries with wide wealth disparities are very unstable. This shouldn’t be a surprise. No one ever revolts where everyone is cared for.

      I love you idea that money is the currency of the rich but that work is the currency of the poor. The irony is that many think of poor people as the lazy ones.

      Thank. I love the insightfulness of your comment.

  5. We all are same what differentiates us is money… Rich aren’t better then the rest of us but they have a lots of opportunities that a middle class or poor people can’t afford ….

    1. It’s certainly easier to become rich if your parents are wealthy and you have lots of influential friends. That’s just very obvious. Yes, wealth is self-perpetuating as is poverty. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I know capitalism is seen as “freedom” but I don’t think anyone need to have a billion dollars, or even close to that. If you have much more than what you need, and you’re not using it to help people who are struggling, then I don’t think you’re worthy of being thought of as a hero at all.

    1. Clear viewpoint ! 👌

      In that respect, it is also noteworthy that the rich is as wealthy as the poor, for ’tis the bank that is actually becoming rich. After all, until the expense is made, the cash not spent is as same as cash not present, because richness in a society is originally gauged by one’s standard of living, instead of the coins caged in banks.

    2. I wish everyone was as intelligent as you. Unfortunately, many have totally bought into the idea that the more one has, the better one is. I’ve long been interested in the tiny house movement for some of the reasons you’ve talked about. This movement says that a person only needs so much room (which means that one can’t have a lot of “stuff”) and anything beyond that is excessive. I really like that thinking. Excess of all sorts should be redistributed to others. Thanks for the comment.

  7. The Rich only think they are better than the rest of us trogdites The true hero’s are the ones that put themselves on the line to help others less fortunate. How can we look up to someone that got their immense wealth by trodding on the backs of hardworking people that didn’t have the advantage of the ultra right privileges, like Daddy paying for their education so they didn’t have to work days and study nights? I don’t care that many people have gazillions of $$$ what I care about is do they care and understand those workers that gave them all that $$$ get their fair share.

  8. Donald Trump had a lot of inherited wealth. He also grew up with examples of questionable parenting and shady business dealings. All of this may have been detrimental to his personal development. Growing up wealthy has advantages and opportunities, but also potential disadvantages. Having everything given to you without effort on your part can make you unmotivated, inexperienced, or even criminal, not that I feel charitable enough to make excuses for Donald Trump! <3

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post.Take care, Troy!

    1. Hi, Cheryl. I guess I’m not shocked that Donald Trump is so shallow, corrupt, and dishonest. I’m more surprised that so many find people these traits as laudable. I’ve long said that a person has got a problem if he can’t tell the difference between a conman and a statesman. I guess so many people are attracted to ugly and obnoxious bullies. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Hell No!

    there are real people trying their darkest to get by and there are the rich, the upper asses, like Bill Gates mingling with slime in hopes of getting a piece, no, a Nobel Peace Prize!

  10. You wrote, ” … we must constantly guard against allowing the views and values espoused by the whole to shape how we see ourselves…”

    People who allow themselves to be moulded by the impressions and expectations of others are followers of the herd and thus limit their potential for achievement. It has always been the independent thinkers, those who think outside the box, who have become the innovators and the movers and shakers of societies. It is all about followers and leaders and every living soul has the potential to be either one. It is burning desire that ignites the flames of upward mobility and that fire is available to anyone with the courage to take it in hand and run with it.

    1. Morning, John. I appreciate your comment. We do have a probably with “herd thinking” as you pointed out. In the business I’m in, I find that most people are somewhat weak when it comes to being skilled in critical thinking. The vast majority not only can’t think outside the box; they live in the box. Doing so makes them comfortable. It’s a lot easier to be told what to do than to try and figure out how life should be lived by being intellectually independent. John, you sound like a really smart guy. What sort of business are you in, if you don’t mind my asking. Again, thanks.

      1. To answer your question, I am a retired industrialist. There are two things that need to be reinstated into academic curricula today — “Critical Thinking” and “Civics” (How Government Works.). Both of these have been more or less lost to our educational opportunities today unless someone picks either of them up as some adjunct to their degree work. It is a national shame and it is crippling us that people are no longer well versed in either subject. It is also egregious that a large percentage of the people you encounter on the street cannot answer the simplest questions about our History or our Government. I also ruminate sometimes on what seems to be a growing lack of a sense of responsibility on the part of the upcoming generations. I am aggrieved at what I perceive to be a growing sense of entitlement by too many people. Thank you for responding and thank you for visiting our little blog.

      2. Absolutely. You make so many great points here and you’re definitely preaching to the choir. I spent decades of my life teaching writing, literature, research methods, humanities, and other sorts of critical thinking courses at colleges and universities located in the US, Poland, the UAE, Turkey, and Egypt. I’m appalled by how little the vast majority of Americans know about the world, including geography, and their own country, including its political system. I’ve long felt that the biggest problem facing the world is the paucity of good critical thinkers. The US is especially guilty of treating education and educators like an afterthought. As a retired industrialist, you know that to attract good people in your field, you had to demonstrate that you wanted them and that were valued. In the world of work, these things are shown by how much a person is paid and what sort of “goodies” are included in the contracts they sign. When I left the US, I got really high salaries, I got free luxury apartments, all my utilities were paid by my employer, I got free airplains tickets once a year to and from my home of record. Had I had children, they would have been educated (free of charge) in great private schools. All those goodies tell an educator that the work they do is highly valued. As a teacher in the US, I get none of this and I get meager pay. Very little respect on top of all that. America is reaping what is has sowed. We have a very undereducated populace and now we are paying the price. I hope we don’t sound like a couple of grouchy old men. I want to check out your blog. Others would also like to. Why not post a link here? I really enjoyed talking to such an,intelligent and thougtful guy.

      3. I appreciate your compliments and I will post a l ink to the blog here but be forewarned that I blog for entertainment’s sake only and very rarely have anything of consequence or value to say. My blogging ebbs and flows from the highly eccentric profane shock jock with political axes to grind — to matters of spirit and general Life. I anger a lot of people really quickly because I cannot be trusted to take one position or the other on issues for very long periods of time.

        I have long since stopped thinking that I can change anybody’s mind about anything of importance because in America where individiualism is worshipped so highly and where the concept of “Freedom” and “Individiaul Rights” is often misinterpreted to be boundless, too many folks suffer from what I call “locked In Thinking” and, because of social pressures on them, I have come to believe they are trapped in their own mire and really have no escape mechanisms because in general they do not tend to realize or to believe the truth about themselves.

        So my blogging is really one big joke when it comes to socially redeeming value — and it is done that way intentioinally in the hopes of making someone angry enough at themselves or at me to get a glimmer of understanding about the situations they are in.

        But, I appreciate your generosity in wanting to check me out and so, here is the link:

        Please do not let the title, “American Liberal Times” confound you because at various times, I have embraced every possible political position … depending on whether or not I find that position to be true or helpful, timely or relevant.

        Being something of an opportunist has been good for me over the years and I am usually more than willing to dig into any kind of mud bank to see what lies under the surface.

        Thanks again for your compliments and please be blessed beyone measure in all that you do.

        If you have not already done so, may I suggest a review of “Think and Grow Rich” and “How To Swim With Sharks Without Being Eaten.” — and for entertainment, “Sue The Bastards.”


  11. I think a great grounding can be found by reading the obituaries of the ordinary and the not-so-ordinary people. Some of the richest lives lived are the ones that began with and sometimes ended with the least in terms of monetary value. And as I reflect on the lives of our heroes of 77 years ago today (D-Day) I can’t help but feel that we have been on a downward spiral ever since, in terms of who we hold up as role models and aspire to be.
    Thank you for inspiring my thoughts today.

    1. I’ve lived in countries where people were a lot more collective in their thinking. Americans like to brag about how much “freedom” they have and how individualistic they are. There’s a danger in radical individualism. We’re now seeing that danger. A huge number of people feel like they owe nothing to others. They no longer think of or agree with the concept of “the common good.” Those heroes of yesteryear sacrificed themselves so that others might benefit. I see lots of a radical form of selfishness these days. I’ve ranted enough! Thanks for reading and commenting and listening to me spout.

  12. No, they aren’t better. The only true thing they have, other than money, is opportunity. But I think it’s the challenges in life, and how we respond to them, that really creates exemplary people.

    1. If you look at the bios of many of the rich and famous, you will find that they havr one thing in common: Connections. They had parents who could open doors for them or they knew someone who knew someone. These rest of us have to pound on the door. They simply approach the metaphorical door and it swings wide open for them. You’re right; some of the worst people I’ve ever know had deep pockets. And some of the best I’ve know had no pockets at all. Thanks. I hope your chickens are doing all the things you want chickens to do 🙂

      1. Oh I think maybe some day I’ll run an ad as a small zoo, so I can make some money from all my pets!

      2. There are a ton of city kids who never have had the pleasure of actually seeing a REAL LIVE chicken or a goat or any farmyard animal. That idea, though you might have meant it as a joke, would probably work.

      3. I did intend it as a joke, but who knows? I do sometimes think we could do something…
        We’ve learned so much from taking care of our animals. All of their differences are very interesting.

  13. What an interesting perspective, that the idea of the wealthy being “better” is a plot created in the mid 20th century to make us fear communism. Who knew the harsh impact it would have on people in the long run? Maybe it’s just me, but I have had to spend a lot of time working on myself, reshaping my ideals, almost FORCING myself to work LESS and find a way to enjoy leisure time without feeling guilty. I think it’s all part of the same story. We think “richer” is “better,” working is a priority and everything else is a luxury. We set aside our physical and mental health to slave away at jobs (sometimes out of necessity, or other times out of guilt, or with the goal of acquiring more and more).

  14. I liked really liked this. I have similar concerns about that question too “are the rich better than us”. The simple answer would be to say no, and personally I think everyone is equal. But in the eyes of the collectivists … they truly believe that those who can think should do the thinking for the rest of the world. Andrew Carnegie supports that ideology, and hates the issuance of free information.

  15. Huh, that’s actually a pretty thought provoking question. Though, at the end of the day, I really think it just depends on if you’re happy and satisfied with life or not. Some people value relationships more than materialism, and others the opposite, so it truly varies from person to person. That being said, i consider myself a mix of both

  16. Money is but one form of wealth. If it was the only wealth we had, the world would be a much poorer place for it. Some of my friends who are the furthest from being what society would define as rich, have the most wealthy hearts for sharing love and kindness with the world.

    Maybe there’s something in that about recapturing what the word ‘rich’ means, not just in describing how much money someone has? A few disconnected but hopefully thoughtful thoughts.

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