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What does it mean to be rich?

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  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 03:53am

    #1
    Cloudfire

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    What does it mean to be rich?

In the wake of several threads addressing the gap between the “rich” and the “poor”, the loss of the middle class, and the role of government in providing support for the unfortunate, I find myself reflecting on what it means to be “rich” . . . . . Or, for that matter, what does it mean to be “poor”?

I often use memories of my childhood as a sort of touchstone, partly because my mind had not yet been subjected to indoctrination by the media and formal education.  In reflecting on what it means to be wealthy, I am remembering a conversation that I had with my father, at the age of seven, and yet I remember it clearly, to this day . . . . The year was 1961 . . . . Over “Easter” vacation, my family, having the advantages of a breadwinner who flew for a major airline, went on a tropical vacation . . . . This was long before winter escapes were common for Americans . . . . . but I was too young and naïve to anticipate that having a winter tan might be a status symbol . . . . It was just what happened when you went surfing in March . . . .

Anyway, on return to school, I was greeted by my classmates with “Where have you been?”, and when told of my vacation, one of my classmates asked, “Hawaii?  Are you rich?”  Not having ever having considered that airline travel was a privilege (It was commonplace for us), nor ever having thought of my family as being particularly privileged, I uncertainly answered, “I don’t think so”. . . . . Not to be evasive, but given my classmates’ awe of world travel, I really wasn’t sure . . . . I had always thought of us as rather ordinary, financially speaking . . . . I had truly never given the question of “class” any thought.

To put this in context, I guess I should mention that I grew up in a wonderfully eclectic community of Chicago escapees  . . . . . A lakeside community where the engineer lived next to the fireman, who, in turn, lived next to the factory worker.  In those days, we all got by with one breadwinner . . . . Working moms were rare, and considered a bit scandalous.  As young children, we were blind to class . . . . My friends’ fathers were developers and engineers, pilots and factory workers, farmers and farm hands . . . . .

So, to hear this question, “Are you rich?” . . . . . startled me a bit . . . . . I truly didn’t know how to answer.  So, not having the advantage of Google to ask the question, I went to my father, and asked, “Dad . . . . Are we rich?”  He looked at me with much the same reaction that I must have displayed in response to my school mates . . . . To his credit, without even asking why I needed to know such a thing, he said, “Yes . . . . . I love your mother, all of my children are healthy, and we have good food on the table . . . . . We are indeed very rich.  And with equal wisdom, he left it at that.

Tears come to my eyes in memory of this simple, precious gift of wisdom.  I have little doubt of the impression that brief moment made on the rest of my life.  It was there, deeply embedded in my mind, every time I had to choose between greed or love, a lucrative job or integrity, sharing or hoarding.  Indeed, I am still fabulously wealthy . . . . . I had the gift of a father who instilled in me the meaning of wealth; I have love in my home, good health, and homegrown food on the table . . . . . You can’t get any richer than that . . . . .

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 04:04am

    #2
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

EXCERPT:

During the age that is coming to an end, the billion or so of us who have lived in the industrial world have enjoyed comforts and opportunities that our species had never known before and almost certainly will never know again. Those could never have been anything but temporary, they were distributed no more fairly than anything else passed around by human hands, and a wiser species would likely have had more common sense than to launch itself on the trajectory we followed, but it’s as distorting to dismiss the extraordinary achievements of our age as it would be to ignore the terrible cost for those achievements that will be paid by us and our descendants.

LINK:  A terrible Ambivalence

  • Thu, Sep 17, 2009 - 05:41pm

    #3
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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

A little piece of advice like that can go a long way. I enjoyed the story.

It all really applies to what aspect of rich is the most important to us.  In our image oriented society being rich may make us feel good during peak moments of attention but ultimately doesn’t fill us.  Being rich in strong family ties and health is worth much more.

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 02:55pm

    #4
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    What does it mean to be rich? . . . . On a societal level

I owe credit to Damnthematrix for these finds (He posted them elsewhere) . . . . Rushkoff crystalizes the very concepts I described in my original post, at the societal economic level:

 

The video:  Life, Inc.

 

From the book:

The financial meltdown may not be punishment for our sins, but it is at least in part the result of our widespread obsession with financial value over values of any other sort. We disconnected ourselves from what matters to us, and grew dependent on a business scheme that was never intended to serve us as people. But by adopting the ethos of this speculative, abstract economic model as our own, we have disabled the mechanisms through which we might address and correct the collapse of the real economy operating alongside it.

Even now, as we attempt to dig ourselves out of a financial mess caused in large part by this very mentality and behavior, we turn to the corporate sphere, its central banks, and shortsighted metrics to gauge our progress back to health. It’s as if we believe we’ll find the answer in the stream of trades and futures on one of the cable- TV finance channels instead of out in the physical world. Our real investment in the fabric of our neighborhoods and our quality of life takes a backseat to asking prices for houses like our own in the newspaper’s misnamed “real estate” section. We look to the Dow Jones average as if it were the one true vital sign of our society’s health, and the exchange rate of our currency as a measure of our wealth as a nation or worth as a people.

This, in turn, only distracts us further from the real- world ideas and activities through which we might actually re-create some value ourselves. Instead of fixing the problem, and reclaiming our ability to generate wealth directly with one another, we seek to prop up institutions whose very purpose remains to usurp this ability from us. We try to repair our economy by bolstering the same institutions that sapped it. In the very best years, corporatism worked by extracting value from the periphery and redirecting it to the center—away from people and toward corporate monopolies. Now, even though that wellspring of prosperity has run dry, we continue to dig deeper into the ground for resources to keep the errant system running.

So as our corporations crumble, taking our jobs with them, we bail them out to preserve our prospects for employment—knowing full well that their business models are unsustainable. As banks’ credit schemes fail, we authorize our treasuries to print more money on their behalf, at our own expense and that of our children. We then get to borrow this money back from them, at interest. We know of no other way. Having for too long outsourced our own savings and investing to Wall Street, we are clueless about how to invest in the real world of people and things. We identify with the plight of abstract corporations more than that of flesh-and-blood human beings. We engage with corporations as role models and saviors, while we engage with our fellow humans as competitors to be beaten or resources to be exploited….

And while the growth of corporations and a preponderance of corporate activity have allowed them to permeate most every aspect of our awareness and activity, these entities are not solely responsible for the predicament in which we have found ourselves.

Rather, it is corporatism itself: a logic we have internalized into our very being, a lens through which we view the world around us, and an ethos with which we justify our behaviors. Making matters worse, we accept its dominance over us as preexisting—as a given circumstance of the human condition. It just is.

But it isn’t.

Corporatism didn’t evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living—the operating system on which we are now running our social software—was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self- sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.

Its basic laws were set in motion as far back as the Renaissance; it was accelerated by the Industrial Age; and it was sold to us as a better way of life by a determined generation of corporate leaders who believed they had our best interests at heart and who ultimately succeeded in their dream of controlling the masses from above.

We have succumbed to an ideology that has the same intellectual underpinnings and assumptions about human nature as—dare we say it—mid- twentieth-century fascism. Given how the word has been misapplied to everyone from police officers to communists, we might best refrain from resorting to what has become a feature of cheap polemic. But in this case it’s accurate, and that we’re forced to dance around this “F word” today would certainly have pleased Goebbels greatly.

The current situation resembles the managed capitalism of Mussolini’s Italy, in particular. It shares a common intellectual heritage (in disappointed progressives who wanted to order society on a scientific understanding of human nature), the same political alliance (the collaboration of the state and the corporate sector), and some of the same techniques for securing consent (through public relations and propaganda). Above all, it shares with fascism the same deep suspicion of free humans.

And, as with any absolutist narrative, calling attention to the inherent injustice and destructiveness of the system is understood as an attempt to undermine our collective welfare. The whistleblower is worse than just a spoilsport; he is an enemy of the people.

Unlike Europe’s fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs came about rather bloodlessly—at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today’s system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity.

That’s why it’s no longer Big Brother who should frighten us—however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It’s not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world…

This is the landscape of corporatism: a world not merely dominated by corporations, but one inhabited by people who have internalized corporate values as our own.

—- Doug Rushkoff  May 11, 2009

Life Inc. pt 1: Your Money or Your Life: A Lesson on the Front Stoop

 

 

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 02:58pm

    #5
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

After viewing Rushkoff speaking, in the video, I can only describe him as a visionary . . . . He has an extraordinarily clear-eyed view of our society and economy . . . . . It has made my day to discover his work . . . . . Thanks again, DTM!

 

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 07:27pm

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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

I found that video very interesting.  I largely agree with what he says about corporations, banks, consumerism, central banking, … but don’t agree with his collectivist views.  I don’t understand why is it that he feels that individuals must give up their rights for some nebulus collective good. 

I would rather come together as equals, trading goods and services freely in ways that benefit both parties.  We can then form voluntary communities, where our social capital can also be accumulated and spent in ways that benefit all parties.

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 07:42pm

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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

[quote=goes211]

I found that video very interesting.  I largely agree with what he says about corporations, banks, consumerism, central banking, … but don’t agree with his collectivist views.  I don’t understand why is it that he feels that individuals must give up their rights for some nebulus collective good. 

I would rather come together as equals, trading goods and services freely in ways that benefit both parties.  We can then form voluntary communities, where our social capital can also be accumulated and spent in ways that benefit all parties.

[/quote]

Hiya, Goes;

I didn’t catch any collectivist drift in the movie . . . . But I admit that I just discovered this man’s work . . . . Can you steer me to evidence of his collectivist views?  I was taken with his assessment of how we got here, but I’m generally not enamored of collectivism . . . .

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 09:33pm

    #8
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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

C1oudfire,

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the “cult of the individual”.  At 6:40 he decries us “acting as individual actors in competition with each other” as opposed to what?  Maybe I don’t understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 09:39pm

    #9
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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

To be happy is to be rich.

  • Fri, Sep 18, 2009 - 10:13pm

    #10
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    Re: What does it mean to be rich?

[quote=goes211]

C1oudfire,

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the “cult of the individual”.  At 6:40 he decries us “acting as individual actors in competition with each other” as opposed to what?  Maybe I don’t understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

[/quote]

Hi, Goes;

I see what you mean . . . It’s wise to listen for what I call “code words” that have deeper ideological meanings  . . . . I ordered a couple of his books . . . . I’ll let you know what I find, once I get into his head a bit more . . . . In the video, he does have the starry-eyed look of an idealist . . . . scratch an idealist, and you sometimes find an ideologue hiding underneath . . . .

 

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