It is not that the rich have more money. Not in America. I know several rich people who (having a massive negative net worth) technically have been much poorer than a beggar on the street. And almost all poor people in America today have material/creature-comfort wealth that exceeded that of most kings before 1900.
The difference is found between the ears. More specifically, the difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich have hope. They believe that in the future they can succeed. They are able to live their lives accordingly, spending their time productively.
The poor in America? They might be rich by the standards of ancient Kings – they have heat in the winter, unlimited hot and cold water on tap, no outhouses, clothing, smartphones … and be totally bereft of hope. They blame others for the things they do not have, for the honor and respect they would like to have from other people.
I live in a Blue City in America, and I see poor people every day, which is to say that I see people who have no hope. It is not merely that they have no perspective and do not realize that they have things a lot better than 99 percent of all of humanity in all of history (though that is true as well). It is that they are dark and sad and crushed.
Their lives have no meaning to them, and they know it. They try to crowd out that thought by filling their ears with loud music at all times. The petty things become all-important: was I dissed by that person in the check-out line? How can I show my superiority to the “customer” I am supposed to be “servicing?” They revel in such pecking-order battles, entirely unaware that there is a bigger world of opportunities out there, that there are so many ways in which they could be growing themselves.
I don’t think there are any quick fixes to their hopelessness. And even the slow fixes are seemingly impossible: how do you help people in a Blue City rise above the infantilized station in which they find themselves?
I think all people can be rich, finding meaning in their lives and living for the future. And I think the pathway to riches comes through personal achievement, through overcoming challenges and adversity. Which means that each person has their own path in this respect: we owe it to them (and ourselves) to maximize their potential to find and pursue that path.Published in