Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rich People

Let me tell you about the very rich.  They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves.  Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.  "Rich Boy" F. Scott Fitzgerald
I have a little experience with the very rich.  Most of us do have some chance associations based on where we have lived or worked or gone to school, the families we come from, or the hobbies we have.  I don't know that mine is much more extensive than any of yours.  We rub shoulders with the wealthy.  More rarely, with the uberrich - I can't say I know much about them.

Similarly, most of us have occasional contact with the moderately wealthy - people who don't necessarily see themselves as all that rich - because they are in contact with people much richer - but by all objective measures are among the most prosperous folks in the country and certainly, the world.  We talk about the 1%, but in world terms, we are all among the 5%, and historically, the 1%.  Few people think of themselves as rich.

I am uncertain how much I agree with the quote above.  Putting aside Fitzgerald's personal reasons for a love-hate relationship with the rich, treating the quote as a generic observation by some anonymous writer, it seems partly true at first glance.  I have certainly known folks who have that air of entitlement, of deserving the choicest portions because they can pay for them, even if they never disparage others or make claims of superiority.  We go to church in a wealthy community, where rather expensive cars, homes, or vacations are considered everyday by some.  It is troubling at times to be brought up short, noticing that this person has a rather skewed idea of what is normal, I think, and not a lot of obvious gratitude that they should be so lucky as to have their abilities match their time and place so well.

Yet they aren't all like that, and I wonder if we do not simply notice such things more among the wealthy. A (female) coworker of indisputable kindness remarked years ago how tragic the death of a young woman was: "She was so pretty and personable."  I remember thinking it would be equally tragic if she weren't pretty.  We hear similar words about intelligent people being struck down by some illness or misfortune, as if this somehow makes it worse.  Perhaps we mean it that way, though we know we shouldn't, but I think a more likely explanation is that we notice it.  Thus with even mildly irritating characteristics among the rich.

OTOH, it is certainly true that exposing people to more temptations means a percentage of them with succumb.  The rich with an inflated sense of desert may not do any worse than we would in their shoes, but the point is they aren't in our shoes.  They have that temptation and we don't.  It would thus be surprising if the wealthy - collectively, not individually - weren't slightly worse than average on this measure, because they have been exposed to temptations the average person hasn't.

I sense, I feel, I smell, that the rich are different in their attitudes, and not in a good way.  But selective bias and confirmation bias are likely to be so strong in me that I mistrust it.  Perhaps I am projecting my own weaknesses on others, but I have to suspect that much of the current class envy, class-warfare rhetoric of our era plays on the same biases.  People think they know what the rich are like and how they think..But they may not.

12 comments:

james said...

A sense of entitlement seems to be a common problem among us rich Americans...

I wonder if there are additional opportunities for virtue (beyond the obvious opportunities for generosity and for building) that being rich affords. The vices seem obvious enough.

To give an example, I read a short bio of Mister Rogers last week. OK, strictly speaking he wasn't rich as we think of the term, but his family was lucky and well-off enough to protect him and raise him to be sensitive. He turned that sensitivity into an amazing ministry to children. I'm not sure he'd have been the same if he'd been raised in a more hard-scrabble home.

I suppose when we start talking about the rich we need to look at ourselves. I'm not brimming with cash, but I've been gifted in other ways. Does that lead me to feel entitled in other ways--deserving attention or respect or ...?

Sam L. said...

I for one am modest, for I have so much to be modest about. I have been fortunate, and know it is not of my making.

Trimegistus said...

I went to a high-end prep school and an elite college, so I can say I do know something about the very rich. I don't think Fitzgerald's comment is true nowadays, if it ever was.

The primary sentiments among the modern rich are guilt and denial. They know they have been fortunate and they try to compensate for it. The best of them (like Mitt Romney) are huge charitable donors. The worst try to assuage their guilt by becoming drawing-room Marxists.

Sam L. said...

Also, I don't know any of the very rich.

karrde said...

When I was a teen, we knew a family that was well off. (The father was a chiropractic doctor...the son had the best car among the set we ran in.)

I don't recall any special attitude on their part.

On the other hand, I was a teen. So I might not have known what to look for.

And they were (and are) wealthy. But not in the realm of never-have-to-work-to-support-themselves.

Diablo 3 Gold said...

Incredible, this can be stunning. Picture all of the looking at and also creating you could do this... Frosty in the winter months even though.
Cheap Diablo 3 Items
Guild wars 2 CD KEY

Jonathan said...

Well, with all that Diablo gold, we could ALL be rich. This can't be a scam, right?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I get 70-100 of those a day. I don't know why that one got through

Texan99 said...

I can't think of anyone I've known very well who was born and raised rich. I've known quite a few who were born poor and got rich -- often after the recent unpleasantness in Eastern Europe. Some of them had grown a little clueless about how the other half lives, though really all they had to do was think back about their own past to re-establish a perspective. That also tended to blunt their response to attempts to make them feel guilty about their wealth.

Frances said...

The secret to getting and maintaining to be rich lies within investing in the right places. You could ask for the assistance of experts from the Personal Wealth Academy to learn how you could grow your money.

Anonymous said...

cheap wow gold on hot sale, what are you waiting for?

Linda said...

Many Diablo III players have no problem understanding the mechanics of the game, have great builds, and have the buy diablo 3 gold knowledge to beat all the bosses in the game. However, what many players do not have is the money to purchase good gear cheap diablo 3 gold that will get diablo 3 gold them through inferno mode.The video game Star Wars: The Old Republic swtor credits was known as one of the most anticipated role playing games ever delivered onto the market. It is a massively multiplayer game that generated literally millions of buy swtor credits in sales within just a few weeks of being released.Star Wars was one of the most popular movies of all times and is considered cheap swtor credits a classic series which is loved by fans from all around the globe.