Money is good and I like it.
That’s one of my mottos. It has arisen out of my observation of the good uses of money: good health care, great education, travel that uplifts and inspires, the ability to charitably help others, good food, beautiful objects that enrich the environment and exalt the soul. Having abundant resources allows life to have a certain ease and facility that relieves stress and facilitates self actualization. Money gives free time in which art, sport, charity, and conviviality can be pursued. Money can be a great blessing.
It can also be a source of evil, cruelty, and pain. I’ve seen parents use it as a weapon against their own children, such as in families where one child is disinherited as an act of destructive communication; inevitably such acts cause lingering pain and bitterness. Parents who do that are always remembered through the taint of their unkindness. Money can be used as a drug to keep people dependent. It can be used to bribe, manipulate, or exploit people. Money is power in and of itself, and there will always be people who abuse power. This doesn’t even take into account what the lack of money causes people to do.
Money can also be used to make people feel special. I know a man who inherited great wealth, and was consistently helped by his mother before her death, so he never had to live exclusively on what he earned. Because he votes Democratic instead of Republican as so many recipients of ‘old money’ do, he cherishes a self image that he is profoundly ethically correct. He sees himself as morally right and superior all the time. Meantime, his family has fallen apart and he pays no attention to the disintegrated emotional bonds, how siblings don’t relate, his wife doesn’t talk to his son, his granddaughter wants nothing to do with her grandparents–because she saw them reject and act parsimoniously toward her little sister, after they had been loving and generous to her. But he is morally superior, because he’s rich and he still campaigned for Obama.
This isn’t the only example of the hypocrisy and self-delusion that money engenders. Living in New York, I have met a lot of Wall Street types. Bankers, brokers, and the wives of such. What struck me about so many of them (not all!) was how convinced they were that having a lot of money made them special. Especially the successful ones. The bigger their bonus, the more special they were. I suppose we all need to feel special and every human finds qualities about themselves to designate as special.
Having met so many Wall Street people, I can say categorically that Wall Street used to nurture a culture in which people prided themselves on being assholes. They were convinced that being an asshole was valid because they were so rich and successful. There was even a term some people used: “BSD,” which stands for “Big Swinging Dick.” They were proud of being BSD’s. I can remember a conversation I had with someone about a man who was then a partner at Goldman Sachs.
“He’s a jerk, his own wife has to take valium to go on vacation with him,” I pointed out.
“Who cares, he’s rich,” said the other person.
I would like to point out that, by all appearances, the man in question has reformed. He’s much kinder to his wife and has mellowed in the years since retiring from Goldman. Everyone can pursue better paths; each of us has the ultimate freedom to pursue our better self.
But there was definitely this swaggering, self-congratulatory arrogance about Wall Street. However much Wall Street helps Main Street, Wall Street was convinced that it was better than Main Street. That’s what the New York Times article this morning about the antipathy from Main Street toward Wall Street failed to mention: the air of superiority with which Wall Street indulged itself. We in Main Street tolerated it when Wall Street was helping us, even though we weren’t as stupid as Wall Street assumed: we KNEW that Wall Street was helping itself $100 for every $1 that it helped us. It’s that quality of condescension that has made us loathe Wall Street now, when our tax dollars are rescuing them from their runaway greed.
Which brings me to a great new TV show, LEVERAGE. It airs on TNT. It’s a Robin Hood show of the most satisfying kind. We get to watch greedy bankers, greedy real estate types, greedy corporate types of all kinds GET THEIR COMEUPPANCE. It’s a show for this moment, now. It’s enjoyable to see the greedy, selfish bastards take a fall.
Too bad it’s only a television show…..