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Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Despite much talk about money, man just doesn’t admire those who have it—in fact, he actively hates those with money; and we can see this is so from this tweet. Logically, it is a complete non sequitur whether or not those people who may or may not have died (quite horribly, if their tourist submarine to the Titanic has indeed sunk) have money or not—that is, if you do indeed value life to any degree (as most profess to); and yet, apparently, if these were Brazilian street children granted a magical “once-in-a-lifetime” visit to the Titanic wreck then, so it seems, our sympathy should be unreserved.

It’s all relative, of course: the woman above might think “people with more money than sense engaged in this frivolous thrill-seeking expedition—at some level they *deserve* it because this is not a serious way to use your money”; and yet that is entirely relative, she is probably richer, being a middle-class American (from the way she writes), than most people in the world—and if we examined what she spends on, for example, shoes every six months then we could as easily form an entirely subjective judgement that it’s “frivolous” for her to spend *so much* and, consequently, if she falls and twists her ankle then she “deserves it” at some level. Yet that is all based on a subjective judgement as regards what “rich” means, what “too much” means, and what “frivolous spending” means.

Indeed, the only objective definition of “frivolous spending” I can think of is the Dickensian maxim that if you spend more than you earn, even by a penny, then you are in for hard times—for misery; and yet, in those terms, the punishment is immediate and obvious—being the lack of hard cash—and not some kosmic kismet where your submarine sinks.

The reason people dislike those with money is that it is believed that money grants freedom—and hence the mob envies this perceived freedom and feels that people who exercise such freedom, in effect a form of power, deserve to be “punished” for it. This is a misconception—courage grants freedom. “People with money can do whatever they want to do, they don’t have to do this stupid job I have to do.” This is the misconception, since to acquire and retain the money they have the rich must constrain themselves—hence their supposed absolute freedom is only an illusion, it’s relative again.

It is true that Elon Musk, for example, could just book a top hotel in the Bahamas this evening and be there by midday tomorrow, whereas I can’t do that. So that’s the freedom money brings, right? That’s why Musk has more power than you. Yes—except to have what he has Musk has to constrain himself in ways I can’t see; and because he has to constrain himself in ways I cannot see there are good reasons why he can’t *just* head off to the Bahamas tomorrow—and yet it is always assumed that “rich people” could do just that, hence people resent the rich because they supposedly have that power and freedom of action.

Yet if you think about it you just don’t know what they’ve done to get that money and have to do to keep it (if, indeed, money itself is the motivator for them—which it usually isn’t, as we all know, because what we end up doing often involves: a. what we can do; b. what we enjoy, in relative terms, that happens to also offer renumeration). Actually, it’s the fact we don’t know how the rich acquire their money that causes us to hate them—we hate what we fear and we fear what we don’t understand; if we understood how they did it, we wouldn’t hate them—we’d probably say, “Okay, I see how that’s hard work or a lot of work or very clever.”

One problem in this regard is that many rich people don’t know how they became rich; they just undertook actions that seemed obvious to them and/or were just “being themselves”—this is so despite the fact men like Trump sometimes publish books along the lines “how I made it”. This must be so because people often ask me “how do you know that?” or “how do you do that?“ and I can’t in all honesty say why—same problem for the rich; and it is a problem, because they are hated because they are not understood.

Hence Musk often makes a big deal about the fact he doesn’t really own a home and almost “camps out” in Spartan conditions and just works all the time. I don’t doubt there is much truth to what he says, but it is also a Machiavellian strategy—rhetoric or propaganda—because he knows that as the “richest man in the world” (the position rotates a bit, but basically) he is a major target for envy; so he does everything he can to present himself as a frugal, disciplined, and Spartan man (which I think has some base truth but he plays it up for rhetorical purposes—obviously he is not “homeless” in the way a single mother who rents her home is in a precarious situation).

The same can be said for the British Royal Family—they have wealth and privilege but because they live in a democracy they have to work for it; they have to do multiple public engagements and put up a constant “front” else everything they have could easily be expropriated. This raises the question as to whether you really ever “have” the riches you have on paper, since you cannot in fact enjoy them as you wish. There is no security in material acquisitions—as various people, from Diogenes to the Buddha, have pointed out down the centuries.

Actual freedom is not a by-product from money, as most people believe (as the mob believes)—it’s a by-product of courage. This includes both physical and moral courage—the latter of which, as Gore Vidal pointed out, is a much rarer quality. Hence, for example, OJ Simpson had physical courage—on the football field and as a murderer—but he lacked the moral courage to stand up and admit his guilt (even though, if he did so, he would have received more sympathy and could have been somewhat rehabilitated, since he committed a crime of passion due to the fact his wife flaunted her lover in front of him—if he had moral courage, we could have still respected him; yet he didn’t).

If you have courage, you have freedom—in fact, this is why philosophers have always held that courage is the root of all other virtues. If you are not afraid to be poor, to be despised, to be rich, to be humiliated, or to die then you have freedom (and you have power too, since you are not dependent on any other thing and have achieved self-reliance). People falsely believe that rich people have freedom and power because they have money, and then envy and hate them for their independence of action—in fact, only the man with courage has freedom.

The resentment stems from the idea “I have to work this stupid lame job, while he can do whatever he likes”—and yet, if you have courage, you don’t have to work the job. If you hate it that much, quit—live on the streets, do nothing (yes, it will be uncomfortable and people will disdain and hate you—but perhaps you’d be happier as a tramp than working that job, the only reason you don’t do that is that you lack courage; you can’t face the discomfort and the social disapproval).

So the rich get blamed for the fact most people don’t have the courage to live in freedom—and, indeed, even the rich are just as constrained (and perhaps couldn’t explain how they ended up rich in the first place, they were just taking steps that made sense to them—they are as stuck as anyone else in that respect).

In fact, man does not want money so much as respect—which cannot be bought (see also, love and loyalty). The fireman, the doctor, the soldier—all receive an automatic respect and reverence that the man who owns a department store or runs an Internet company just can’t buy.

It’s because these roles deal with life and death—they save our lives, perhaps save our lives by taking the lives of others; and that begets respect (the priest used to have this cachet too, but in modernity he has lost it—nobody believes the medicine man, shaman, or magician can actually take or protect life anymore; hence nobody respects priests today, though they should). Again, it can’t be bought—the average firefighter, no matter how lazy or how infrequently called to actual fires, will always get more respect than Bill Gates (no matter how many economists produce spreadsheets to show how much $$$ value Microsoft has added to your life).

This is why Bill Gates is hated in particular: his company is associated with office drudgery—Microsoft products are a by-word for your humdrum office life, for PowerPoints, and, in the early years, crashes that wrecked all your work. Worse, Gates has no personality—he personifies “the nerd”. Jeff Bezos is similar—he’s basically a bookseller turned greengrocer and haberdasher; and no matter what he does these are just very dull, as if he owned a department store in the 1960s or a chain of petrol stations.

Hence neither man gets any respect, no matter how useful their products are—both are just humdrum and pedestrian. People make up ridiculous conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, as regards vaccines, precisely because he is so uncharismatic and because his products are so associated with beige misery. Steve Jobs never suffered from a similar problem because his products are associated with high-quality fun (iPod = music / iPhone = your friends).

Musk has managed to avoid “billionaire resentment” because he made his money on a product, PayPal, that everyone has now forgotten—unlike Amazon. I can’t remember when I last used PayPal, but perhaps it was fifteen years ago to pay for some second-hand CD. In the interim, Musk has associated himself with projects that are, frankly, cool—space travel, electric cars, big tunnels. He also has a sense of humour.

Hence everyone respects and likes him, even though the product he made his money through was as humdrum as Amazon—imagine if PayPal had partnered with the IRS to help you pay your taxes, if that happened Musk could have ended up as resented as Bill Gates.

Instead, Musk’s diversified business interests begat respect because they moved from mere dull business into the realm—as with Jobs (who was quasi-artistic)—of “visionary”; and we have respect for the visionary, not quite the same respect as for the doctor and the soldier but still a certain respect that is quasi-religious because they move our minds beyond the mundane and expand our horizons (literally, in Musk’s case, into outer space). It’s based on a genuine interest for Musk as well, the proverbial boyhood dream or vocation (again, quasi-religious—he has been “called” to space travel); and that shows (Bezos has tried to copy Musk with his space program, but it feels lame, contrived, and try-hard). However, even so, Musk will never receive the same respect as a soldier, firefighter, or doctor—because he doesn’t protect or take life.


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