Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rich are Different Than the Rest of Us

New research shows that rich people cannot feel pain, don't care if they're liked.

What!?!  Before we go into this lets get some literary and historical context.

The famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald coined an enduring statement about the rich in his classic book, “The Rich Boy”.  “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.”

Some people disagreed with Fitzgerald including most famously, Earnest Hemmingway who said “Yes the rich are different. They have more money”. 

But now there is research that shows that Fitzgerald was right in some surprising ways.

Being rich makes people somewhat invulnerable to pain and steels them against rejection by other people, according to researchers in China and America.  In several different tests involving actually pain and rejection technics rich people were consistently more resistant to pain and were seemingly unfazed by rejection, insults or other indignations that would make the rest of us cry and beg for anti-depressants.

Jeez, some other research shows that rich people even live longer, up to a decade more than the rest of us.  No wonder ancient guys like Rupert Murdoch are still reeking havoc on society years after everyone else is retired or dead.  This means Bill Gates could still be doing Windows fifty years from now.  Yipes!  Obviously the reason for this is they can afford the best health care in the world.  How else did Steve Jobs get to go to the head of the liver line in Memphis? 

And you know how they say the rich just get richer?  They’ve proven that now as well.  The explanation for this is a little easier.  They are much smarter with money because they are better advised and they get greater access to money-making opportunities. Duh.

There is another key difference between us and the rich. Their yachts do it. Their limousines do it. Their jets do it. Even their air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. This is why in some parts of the world strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming.  (Al Gore, are you listening?  Oh yeah, you are just rich...not super rich)  Makes you a little queazy if you are scraping to afford a hybrid Prius or a solar panel to cut your carbon footprint.  

I think all of us have fantasized at least once about being really rich. Think the fancy cars, the big houses, the jets and boats.  Now you can add resistance to pain and emotional stress and a longer than normal life to the fantasy.  

So what is the downside of being rich?  I have a really rich friend who tells me that the downside to being rich is that you become more of a target to others who want to take away what you have. He says he has to spend time and money on security, and you have to be a bit cautious about new acquaintances. He always wonders if people want something from him or do they really like him? He says he is “on guard” a lot of the time.

At the end of the day...he seems to have a really good time.  I even saw him bleed...but I’ve never seen him cry.


downbytheriver said...

I too have an extremely wealthy friend akin to the namesake of the new Cancer Research Facility at one of our Alma Maters. Fortunately, I am able to call him "friend" because he's rather astute at not leaving others feeling as though they are somewhat lesser beings - though we all know we are right?! ;o]

He'll prah'lee outlive me by dozens of years - which I've come to accept considering I've lived in a manner never believing I'll see tomorrow's day light.

'Hate to bring up the Life is a Paradox thing again - but my friend's life for as entitling, gratifying and fun as it clearly most certainly cannot be any better than any other's life if we are 1.) Living our life to its fullest 2.) Doing the Right thing (for the right reason(s)) and 3.) Appreciating that which we DO have to its fullest extent: most importantly AUTONOMY/"freewill" - the ability to make choices at every turn and hopefully give careful forethought/apply due diligence to each & every decision as we make it(whenever applicable time permitting etc.etc.).

You DO realize that THAT is what truly distinguishes us from primates and not the opposable thumb right? Autonomy was given to you by your Maker and not a cosmic collision of dust...dust collision may account for thumbs but not FreeWill rest assured of that one.

Back to the Cancer Center...its namesake had more troubling him than Colon Cancer and Cancer was not his ultimate demise. Alcoholism was the perpetrator and we're all subject to our weaknesses...our "vices" if you will. Mine are women and wine....either/or/both I'm fine! (=

Sure, he's assured the finest health care coverage...sure, he doesn't have to struggle to make rent, or harvest food (from his local Ingles/HarrisTeeter whatever)... but life is what it is and it is what you make of it no matter your race,creed,gender or financial stature.

Sure, it might be nice to take money for granted (for a while) like you & I take for granted receiving oxygen with every breath we take...never knowing what it was like NOT to have money could be a blast(for a while)!!! But can you ever truly..REALLY enjoy (to the fullest)the benefits that money can bring if you've NEVER gone without?!?
So anyway, Life is still that knife cutting both ways - as good as it is on one side, its equally as bad on the other. If not to you than, to someone else somewhere in this world at this very moment.

Which reminds me...Can you(me,we) be born IN America and TRULY KNOW what it means to be "American"? I don't think so. This Nation's founding fathers were fighting oppression of speech and religion and LEFT their homes to come here for "Freedom". (Yes, I know history and what some explorers did to Native Americans and what some colonists did to African Americans) To truly enjoy the Liberties of America you should be from some other place where life is considerably more difficult because We as Americans take WAY too much for granted and cannot fully appreciate all that we have....every...last...d^mned...oneof Us. Until you've done without everything - you cannot appreciate anything. Peace - I'm outtie!

downbytheriver said...

Do I win anything for playing "State The Obvious"?!!?

I wonder how much money was spent and how many people made of like bandits "studying" the obvious.

If you have "everything" - why would you feel pain? You'd have no "frame of reference" to understand "pain". "Ouch?" "What?" "I'm sorry, I didn't notice you had my head in a vice I was too busy thinking of going on extended holiday to one of the 3 places on Earth I've not visited later this afternoon once you finish this, whatever this is, non-sense you are doing.". :^O

Why would you care if you were liked? You wouldn't have to.

You'd have never had to "share" or "play together" or get along.

Carbon emissions? "Oh, are those a bother to you?" "I'm sorry, We'll get someone to take those out of the air for you if its a real bother to you....but for now, I've got to run...I'm meeting some friends in Figi in four hours and I'm already 3 hrs behind." "We're planning on meeting there and discussing traveling faster than the Earth's rotation in the its opposite direction to see if in fact we will ever actually age another minute! How exciting"

SOMEONE - Please, fund ME to do this sort of research next time!!! I'll have to meet my filthy rich friends on location, but I'll return with some fabulous data!!!!!!!

Chip said...

Great comments. Thanks much. BTW, as the Buddha said, you can't experience joy without suffering. Maybe that's at the bottom of this.