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.