Repost: On Work and Money: Part Two

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?

21 thoughts on “Repost: On Work and Money: Part Two

  1. My cynical streak has a hard time getting past how many of the super wealthy gained their money on the backs of those who worked for them for minimum wage. It’s also difficult to overlook the role that big money plays in the department of dirty tricks that the dark forces use to assure their continued power over us. Finally—we are beginning to see the light—and the truth will set us free! It’s only a matter of time.🙏

    1. Hi. Don’t forget those who inherit their wealth and are born on third base, to use a baseball metaphor. You’re absolutely right about the rich using the poor to build their wealth. I would also say that pure luck plays a huge role as well. There are plenty of very talented people who aren’t going “to make it” in the sense of getting rich. Those who do often know someone who knows someone and thus they get the magic door opened for them. In such a case, it’s easy to just step through and “be discovered.” Sorry. I’m feeling negative today. Don’t mean to drone on an on. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I wish I can write something more intelligent on this issue, but I also think part of it is comes from both the New Thought movements as well as Social Darwinism that came about in the gilded age.

    Social Darwinism obviously states that only the fittest survive and that we are all in competition with other people in the world. The New Thought movement, now known today as Law of Attraction, also posits we can get everything we want as long as we have the right mindset and do the right actions. Of course, the flip side of that is that if we are poor or working bad jobs, it’s 100% due to our moral failings.

    Hence, the societal victim-blaming.

    1. Hi. A great book was written on what you call the New Thought Movement years ago. I can’t immediately recall the author’s name, but the title was Bright-Sided Thinking, and it was a critique of the “think positive and positive things will happen” mindset. Given the problems we face, we need less Social Darwinism and more cooperation. Just think how much different the world and life would be if the nations of the world would see each other as partners rather than competitors. Thanks so much leaving such a thoughtful comment.

  3. Do people actually think the rich are better than the rest of us?
    People seem to complain about the rich and how they’ve gained their wealth on the backs of others.
    How they treat people like pawns in a chess game.
    Look pass ordinary people like they don’t exist.
    Somehow these traits don’t describe a better person. They just describe a miserable person to be around.

    1. I’m afraid that many Americans think that being rich somehow makes the rich better than the rest of us. I can think of a million TV shows that depict the fictional lives of rich people and glamorize their wealth. And now I’m trying hard to come up with a single show that depicts the life of the poor in any sort of positive way. The poor are often cast as shady characters, as those we should be afraid of. This thinking runs deep in American intellectual culture. How about other places? Thanks for the great comment.

  4. Troy, you have hit on one of the biggest flaws of western culture—we idolize the wrong people. Last year, I wrote a blog post about choosing the right influencers for your life that hit on some similar themes.

    I agree that the uber-rich are not people to be idolized, and many of them are just not nice people at all. I often shake my head about the popularity of the Kardashians. Why does anyone pay any attention to what these people do? And why do people follow “influencers” whose sole purpose is to sell them things they don’t need? I have no answers…just questions.

    1. Why not leave a link to the piece you’ve mentioned? I’d love to have a look. Yes, we do idolize the wrong kinds of people. The Kardashians! Just think how many people watch things on TV about such people! Meanwhile, those who do real good, like teachers, languish in poverty and obscurity. Like you, I have no answers. I guess it’s better to ask questions (even if we don’t have answers) than to not be paying attention. Thanks for the wonderful comment.

  5. Hey Troy- great piece. It’s a shame our culture is 100% based on the wrong things (wealth at all costs, out of control individualism…)

    1. Absolutely, Todd. I was saying earlier (to a previous comment) how much better life would be if we (people and nations) could see each as partners rather than competitors. We’d have less income inequality if we could simple shift our way of seeing each other. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I agree with you in that our society has, over the years, become obsessed with the rich. It is at least in part how tRump became president. It’s such a waste of our energy though. Of course rich people are no better than the rest of us; I like to think we all know that on an intellectual level. Yet, we’ve been pounded and pounded with rich folk hero-worship baloney on t.v., in movies, in the news, etc. for so long that subconsciously we hold admiration for them.

    1. You’ve described and diagnosed the problem perfectly, Rhonda. What can be done about such a problem? Given the number and size of the problems we face, we better find a way to begin to see one another as partners rather than competitors. It’s probably too late already and the ideas you’ve described too deeply ingrained. Sorry. I’m feeling negative today. Thanks.

      1. We all have our days when we feel negatively. Yet, I also firmly believe there is more good than bad in this world when it comes to the people inhabiting it. It’s an American culture problem and I think we’re just starting to see wealthy folks being held to account and their “specialness” in the public’s eye fading. I would point to the demise of tRump that we’re witnessing live, along with other cultural happenings that lay bare the evil that can come from extreme wealth (the Netflix sort of fictionalized docu-series, Painkiller, about the Sackler family/Purdue pharma/Oxycontin epidemic is one such example). Tomorrow is another day; perhaps it will be less negative than today, man.

  7. You are asking a very good question. I have thought about it without having any good answer.
    Why do we exalt rich people?

    On the one hand, we often talk badly about the rich (a bit of a generalization here but yes) and on the other hand everyone dreams of becoming rich (again a generalization when I say, everyone)

    Personally, I think wealth makes one free to a great extent (no need to be a slave like we often are for wages) but not necessarily free from being human and every aspect of it. In other words, everything we have in terms of feelings, thoughts and patterns will be there even if we become rich, so it does not make us happier, Will it?

    1. Hi. It’s interesting that you connect wealth with freedom. Of course, you are right. Being rich does free one from certain kinds of worry. For example, my wife and I know an extremely rich woman who lives a very carefree lifestyle. It’s Sunday and I know that she’s not stressing about getting up early and going to work tomorrow morning like I am because she has not financial need to work. I suppose she does have her worries, but not the one I just mentioned. Maybe it’s a kind of jealousy we feel when we look at the rich? Maybe we wish we could trade places with them and so we obsess about their lives in a kind of dream state? You’ve prompted some interesting thinking about this subject. Thanks so much!

  8. Great questions Troy! Of course rich people are not better than anyone else. And I think we make them a kind of a status-symbol because of the publicity we see around. Have you ever seen an ad where people are poor or just ordinary? I haven’t, unless it is from the UNCHR or any other organisation asking for funds. Therefore, we are influenced by their lifestyle. There are good people also among the rich obviously, but the super rich people earning so much should contribute more to solve some of the problems societies are facing nowadays. And what I don’t like is that in most of the cases they continue to accumulate money and make profits, closing their eyes in front of the mankind issues.

    1. Hi, crisbiecoach. I made such a comment earlier about not seeing positive depictions of the poor on TV. When we do see fictionalized images of the poor on television, they are often depicted as shady characters, as those we need to fear because they are somehow associated with criminal activity. The rich are raised up and the poor are brought down in popular culture. Given the scope of the problems we face, we need to quit romanticizing certain types of people and see things as they clearly are. We also need to stop glamorizing those who’ve “made it” because we must not celebrate ideas that glorify income inequality. We must begin to think of our neighbors as partners rather than as competitors. Thanks!

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