Good fortune is not immoral: Deal with it
October 23, 2013
The front cover of Saturday’s New York Post blared “Mean Little Rich Girl: My family has money — so deal with it.”
The subject of the story is the 20-year old daughter of a prominent fertility doctor and a student at the New School. She was ridiculed by the Post as “daddy’s little rich girl.” By her own admission, she is a “spoiled brat.”
Her sin was publishing an on-line essay on what it is like to be well-to-do.
“I am sorry that I was born into great financial circumstances and my father likes to provide for me,” she wrote. “I am sorry I don’t have to go to a state school to save my parents money. What do you want from me?”
Inartful, as she admits, “Maybe I didn’t frame it in the right way because people are missing the point: Which is no one should have to pretend they are what they aren’t.”
However, she was definitely honest and had a valid point — no one should have to pretend they are what they are not.
This is heart of the advice given by Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I thought we are to be proud of whom we are. However, in our current politically correct culture almost everyone is a victim of some sort of discrimination. In addition, to the classic discriminations against religions, ethnic origin, gender, and race, we have new discriminations for which individuals should feel guilt, such as ageism, “fatism,” discriminations against the mentally and physically handicapped (or should I say, “differently enabled”?), Islamophobia, and homophobia (which has recently been expanded to include bisexuals and transgendered people).
This type of thinking elevates groups and destroys individualism and acknowledgement of individual achievement. It destroys natural incentives to excel, which makes society advance. The ramifications of societal leveling were described in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and lampooned in Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, where amendments to the Constitution demand that everyone with a form of advantage is given a “handicap” to make them equal.
One of the newer “guilts” is privilege. We are now to feel guilt for being white and/or financially successful, acknowledging that, but for these advantages, we would not be where we are today. This was best articulated by Democratic House Leader Dick Gephardt: “Those who have prospered and profited from life’s lottery have a moral obligation to share their good fortune.” This anti-success, redistributionist philosophy was at the core of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Don’t all people want to succeed and leave their children financially secure? Some succeed, some succeed more than others, and some fail, but such is life.
To succeed professionally or financially was once a desirable goal and attaining success was a badge of achievement, something to be admired. Our PC culture is turning financial success into a mark of shame. The term “one percent” derogatorily refers to the wealthiest among us. In the past, to be “rich as Rockefeller” was both an expression of class envy and a goal to be attained.
True, some of the wealthy have inherited fortunes, but don’t we all want to pass along as much as we can to our children? Sometimes, the children do not appreciate what it took to give them financial advantage, bragging about their trusts or parents’ “big bucks.”
The subject of the Post story exhibited poor taste, but that should not result in public crucifixion. Society has celebrated other “spoiled brats” of the wealthy and famous; the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and the Gottis come to mind. But her message is what parents tell their children and therapists tell their patients — acknowledge who you are and be yourself.