I've finally moved in to my new place in SoCal. I don't know anyone in the area, but it turns out my parents have a friend who lives in LA and he invited me to his place for dinner.
The guy is a top-notch doctor and he has this sick ass place on the hills overlooking Sunset Blvd. Three story apartment, wonderfully decorated and with a gorgeous view. He has pretty much everything, from a mini movie theater to saunas to his own fitness center. You get the idea.
As he was preparing dinner he handed me a glass of wine and told me to enjoy myself, so I went to the balcony, sat down, and started doing just that. And there I started thinking about ambition, and what it takes to be where he is right now (I mean in life in general, not this particular location). I made a list: being hard-working, being ambitious, knowing the right people, and maybe some luck.
Then it occurred to me that, as a society, we have associated negative connotations with all of them. Hard-working people, we call workaholics. Ambition, we regard as dickish and even evil. Using connections to step up, we call unfair. Luck, we view with a certain amount of disdain, as we judge them as undeserving and silently curse our own lack of luck. Why is this so? Certainly there are many rich people who are also good people, who have a healthy work-life balance, and have used their ambition not only for themselves but for their friends, family, community. So why are we as a society obsessed with judging them?
My personal take on the matter is that it is just massive jealousy. You may not have the financial high ground but at least you have the moral high ground, right? He may be rich but he no doubt committed a lot of evil get it. Did some immoral things, broke a law here and there, maybe killed a few people. I mean there is no way in hell that these people just have more intelligence, skills, and the drive to use them more than you, because you're one special flower, the center of the universe, and if someone is in a better position, you either make excuses about conditions being unfavorable or convince yourself that you don't want what he has. Sour grapes.
As we were having dinner we started talking about it, and we ended up talking for three hours about a lot of things. He bulldozed some of the naive (and judgmental) preconceptions that I had regarding money, success, ambition, etc. Here is what I learned... or I should say agreed with
, as he was just stating his opinions and he said as much:
1- Money is not important... is bullshit. Money is always
2- A lot of the time, money is the most important thing in the world
. Not always, but there are things money can accomplish that anything else cannot.
3- Money can
buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).
4- Never let other people beat your ambition out of you, or convince you that it is evil, because it is just their way of bringing you down to their level and making sure you don't surpass them.
Now, these don't mean that money will for sure make you happy, or that you should aim for money and nothing else. On the contrary, he did point to some of the regrets he had in life in terms of the decisions he made that led to more money and less other things (he is single for instance). But he did say that there were many situations where money accomplished what other things - love, respect, joy, etc. that we typically hold as superior, at least morally
, to money - could not (he gave the example of a patient who caught AIDS due to no mistake of her own, and how she would be dead ten years ago if she didn't have the money for the medicine).
Anyway we did talk about other things too, but for the purposes of this thread I don't want to go on with my rambling.
Bottom line is that I think that the stigmas we have associated with being rich are the way less rich people (not necessarily just the poor) cope with not being richer. And this is disgusting because they are a result of massive over-generalization of rich people as less moral, less ethical, and less humane.