Some years ago the rapper Master P had a video in which he and his crew were astride a platinum tank. I thought at that point the human race had reached the furthest limits in a culture of worshipping wealth and consumerism. Once you have a platinum tank, how much further as a species can you go in that direction? It seems we sailed on past that point. We went over the waterfall and somehow just kept on going downstream.
There is nothing wrong with making money. I am in two rock n roll bands. Bands, if you are trying to run them so that you can survive, are businesses. If you have a product in any field that you believe in, and try to sell it at a fair price and run your business with some integrity, you are doing society a good service. You are creating jobs and providing people with services and goods that they desire.
What I’m talking about is the kind of hero worship of the wealthy that we see in this country. As if those people, just by the fact that they are rich, are deserving of some kind of acclaim. Reality TV is filled with people that certain people fawn over just because they have money and act outrageously. Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice are two such vile places one can spend time. Those are easy targets.
We also seem to have hero worship for financial advisors like Suze Orman and Jim Cramer. These are people that sell us the empty dream of becoming rich without standing for anything.
I’ve seen several studies that show how wealth relates to happiness. The numbers vary slightly, but one such study claims that after $75,000 a year money ceases to affect your day to day happiness. You need to have enough money to pay your bills, have freedom from fear of want, and have a little extra money for fun. After that, money doesn’t necessarily make you any happier.
When people become wealthy, if they are not getting an inheritance, it is because of a combination of hard work and luck. The hard work shouldn’t be discounted, but neither should the luck. Luck is not something to worship. If you were born in the USA, instead of Somalia, you probably have a better chance of getting rich. That’s just one example.
Instead we should look up to those that have brought new ideas into the world, that have tried to make the world a better place, or that have made others happier. A great teacher, that has brought the light of knowledge to many students, is more deserving of our applause than some kind of rich mutant like Donald Trump.
Hopefully, some day there will be a new age of heroes. I’m looking for an age where we look up to people that have brought fire down from the mountaintop to us; a fire of peace, tolerance, and knowledge. I’m not counting on it, but I’m dreaming.