Yes, it’s been a while, and we’ll talk about that shortly. First, let’s talk about “wealth envy.” I’ve used this phrase before, but today I want to get more detailed.
First, some definitions
Wealth is “a great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches.” Envy is “a feeling of discontent with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.” I have a much more informal definition of “politician.” I once heard a comedian say, “you are what you eat. Mentally, that means if you put doctor stuff in your brain, you become a doctor. If you put in teacher stuff, you become a teacher. If you don’t put anything in, you go into politics.”
Politicians preach the gospel of wealth envy. EVERY person that has ANY more money than you is evil. They got there by luck, such as an inheritance. Or they used illegal and/or immoral activities, such as cheating in the stock market or stepping on other people’s necks to get a promotion. You, politicians say, are #1 in the wealth standings for people who come by it honestly. Everyone above you is a cheater, liar, or “won life’s lottery,” as Congressman Richard Gephardt used to say. There’s no way anyone wealthier than you got it by their own effort. As such, they don’t “deserve” that wealth. But we (government) are here to right these wrongs! We are going to pass legislation that takes this ill-gotten wealth and give it to you and all the other honest people that truly deserve it!
We communicate with wealth envy
Whenever a celebrity suffers a tragedy, such as the death of a family member, people will be there on their social media channels to say, “Yeah, but you’ve got money; you have nothing to cry about.” I listen to a podcast hosted by a psychiatrist who is well-equipped to treat patients with mental illness because she suffers from depression and anxiety herself. In a recent episode, she shared a conversation she had with a “friend” where she was talking about the increased bouts of depression she was having as the plague drags on and on. The “friend” said, “yeah girl, but you makin’ that doctor money; you’ll be fine.”
Thanks to this wealth envy narrative that has been shoved down our throats for the last 200 years, this is the way too many people think. In many minds, there’s a certain amount of money or net worth that once you reach it, you no longer have any issues. You never have grief, hurt feelings, disease of any sort, or any reason to feel down. Because money. You have money, and that makes all the other things go away.
Except it doesn’t. People who are wealthy, famous, or both are actually human beings just like the rest of us. But because we as a society have bought into the wealth envy narrative the politicians have been pushing, we have completely lost sight of that.
It’s the politicians’ fault
Let’s go back to the Civil War. Congress passed the first version of the income tax to pay for the war. Some people correctly noted that the Constitution was constructed in such a way as to make this illegal. The reason the USA was founded was because the colonists were being taxed by England while having no representation in Parliament. The income tax is somewhat similar. It’s really a section of people forcing another section of people to forfeit some of their income, whether they like it or not. So the concept was fiercely fought. Finally, in 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified making it legal for Congress to impose an income tax. Naturally, Congress told the people it was temporary, just to pay for our involvement in World War I. But here we are 107 years later, and the tax is still in place.
In 1913, Congress deftly told the people that only “the rich” would pay the tax, meaning the top 3 percent of all earners. The middle class and poor ate this up. And so the wealth envy gospel was established, not to mention the temptation for the average person to fall into the trap of believing government could solve all problems, especially those that revolve around how much wealth people have. The New Deal legislation passed during the 1930’s depression furthered that cause, establishing Social Security and Medicare. If those programs were limited to the very poorest citizens, it might have been a decent idea. But making them for everyone encouraged further dependence on government for basic life necessities.
It’s getting worse
Politicians are criminals. Now, every election cycle, we are bombarded with attack ads that essentially say, “you MUST vote for me, because my opponent is going to take your money away.” Conservatives say the liberals are going to take all your wealth and give it to “poor people” who aren’t trying to make it on their own and are living on handouts. Liberals say that conservatives are going to take what little you have and give it to “rich people” in the form of lower tax rates or lower limits on collecting Social Security/Medicare taxes.
And we continue to go all-in. It’s no wonder humans are so often compared to sheep in the Bible. Sheep are some of the dumbest animals around. They will follow other sheep everywhere, even off a cliff. The only way they can survive is under the careful direction of a shepherd. We as people tend to follow the crowd, even if the crowd is headed for severe danger. Some turn to God to be their shepherd, others turn to the government.
Government is a truly awful shepherd
The taxes intended to level the field so that everyone has some measure of wealth has produced a larger gap that continues to widen. Laws designed to reinforce the “all men are created equal” statement in the Declaration of Independence have led to more inequality, particularly along racial lines, than there has ever been. That, too, is growing instead of shrinking. In particular, law enforcement and the courts have never been worse at treating all races equally.
What can we do?
This is a tall order and difficult to do, but we must resist the urge to buy in to the prevailing narratives. We must resist the urge to hate everyone that has more wealth. Even if everyone with more wealth was a crook, all I can do is work my hardest to improve my position. If I encounter a roadblock along the way, I work to get past it. If it is something systemic, then I can rally those in a similar position and push for change.
It is equally important to resist the urge to hate everyone that looks and/or thinks differently. This has been around since the dawn of time, but it has been exacerbated in the social media age. The anonymity of a social media profile makes it easy to attack others with no repercussions. Many statements are made in absolutes. “My words are the only true words, and any disagreement in any form is evil.”
We have to listen more. Anyone we cross paths with that is upset, we need to listen to them. That’s more than hearing, which is just remaining silent until there’s a break in the story so we can reply. You have to listen with no intent on rebutting or confirming anything. When the person that offers you a space to respond, then you can do so. Never make any assumptions about people based on their appearance or any other aspect of them.
And more than anything else, NEVER take what you see on any news channel as gospel truth. Do your own investigating.