Rich of all Countries, unite!
Probably our Rich species surfaced quite a long time ago, where and when humans started to convert their hunting murderous tribes into chiefdoms and later kingdoms, where food surplus storage (and slaves from conquered underdeveloped tribes) granted room for unproductive people, the chief's official and the priest: the former to collect tributes and the latter to justify the chief's kleptocracy as well as his wars of conquest. Along with the bureaucrats and the priests such societies growing in sophistication brought about craft specialists to make canoes, weapons, architectural tombs and buildings. At that stage somebody among the craftsmen the officials or the priests, besides keeping the accounts of stored food, designing the king's tomb or recounting the chief's glory, had some free time for himself far from the slaves' toil, and might have started some sort of literacy, which involved somewhat of an attitude to silence and meditation. Probably our forebears, the early Rich, started to find inner elation in such circumstances. Who knows? However six centuries before the camel's needles-eye definition, Pythagoras, the inventor of the word PhiloSophia, reportedly explained to Leon of Phlius: «Some are influenced by the love of wealth while others are blindly led on by the mad fever for power and domination, but the finest type of man gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself». So, there we were, and here we are.
Hmm! Should I better watch what I say? To quote Pythagoras might be a mistake. Political correctness would define him a DWEM (Dead White European Male) one of those including Plato Michelangelo Shakespeare Newton and Beethoven "who were not only responsible for creating the vast majority of the irrelevant art, literature and music that arbitrarily still form the core of modern university curriculum, but also conspired to formulate the dominant patriarchal industrial order" (definition given by William Lutz, «Doublespeak», New York: Harper perennial, 1990, page 219). Can Mr Lutz pardon me?
By the way the advantage of a classic education, according to Russel Green's opinion, is that it enables you to despise the wealth which it cannot help you to achieve. Any comment?
A further question: do you believe there is a peculiar environment where the Rich can better blossom? Well, yes and no, I would say. Waiting for your answers, I might venture into saying there are certain limits to our Rich existence. You surely heard that Men of Good Will are defined as The Salt of the Earth. I would rather describe the Rich as Saccharomyces ellipsoideus, the wine yeast that converts sugars fructose and glucose into alcohol: in our jargon, people who can transform the gifts of life into inner unconcerned joy. Wine fermentation works only within a pretty narrow range of temperature and is inhibited when alcohol reaches 15 per cent of the volume. Do you agree that the Saccharomyches Rich have better chances within certain restricted conditions?
Do you believe the Havenots who constitute the majority of mankind, the hungry, the destitute have any time or lust for inner tranquil scrutiny? As we learn about present-century slaves ("zek" Ivan Denisovich Shukhov in his ravishing Gulag day or "Haeftling" Primo Levi vacationing in Oswiecim-Brezesc Med Club = called Auschwitz-Birkenau by the NAZIonalSozialisten tour operators of that time) they had no longer eyes for the distant view, only the rough work in front to be carried out pauseless and fast, without even thinking about it. Without thinking about anything, the survivors told us: until they fell asleep every lucky evening on top of a four-man bunk. If you own nothing, your personal time included in the nothing, I am afraid you are not in a favourable position to join our inner-high-spirits Rich club, unless you were already a callous Rich before.
On the other hand, people of great "success" might have another type of difficulty to join us (according to our opinion = or prejudice = about them). We did simplify the situation stating that the Poor are those wanting (i.e. avid, grasping, rapacious) while the Rich are those in peace with themselves [because] content with what they have got to be. Our scheme of dual world, the insatiable wealthy Poor plus the covetous indigent Poor on one side, and we the aloof self-content Rich on the other side (in the middle, in fact) implies that in our distinguished Club can exist also the millionaire Rich considering their wealth in a dispassionate, unselfish way, along with the Rich born to live in rather modest conditions, all of them content in the same way. So far so good, for our [Manichean] theory of the Inner Stance.
Yes, a bit Manichean it is, do you agree? How many among us doubt the very existence of that Rara Avis, the wealthy Rich? Deep down, do we imagine the financier and former arms-dealer Adnan Khasoggi, the Emir of Kuwait, the Sultan of Brunei, the dynamic George Soros or Bill Gates finding for themselves the restful time needed for any inward journey? They are likely to be too busy in their outward activities. Probably they are convinced to be rich, but we feel entitled to suspect their inner stance is not genuine joy, rather a sort of euphoria, such as winning gamblers may experience. Such highly tolerable euphoria has little in common with our tranquil inner richness (and many of us would like to try THEIR hard way of life, just out of curiosity, wouldn't we?).
Who knows about the wealthy Rich? It's difficult to judge from outside any personal stance (we better ought never to judge anybody?). The niece of John Pierpont Morgan at the end of her elementary school reportedly had to write a composition titled: «Depict a poor family». Her treatment of the subject: «The Smith family was very poor. All of them were extremely poor. The father, along with the mother and their small daughter, they all were poor. Also the butler, the housekeeper, the chambermaids, the coachman and the car driver, even the gardener and the cook were helplessly poor, like all other servants in that house. The groom and his stable-boys were poor, too". Probably it's hard to imagine others' plight.
We feel anyway pretty comfortable perceiving that we are in the middle between the insatiable wealthy and the rapacious indigent; and the middle class, to which we belong, seems the ideal environment for the inner Rich. There is probably a grain of truth in this. We read so often on newspapers what a precious treasure of commonsense the middle class is for human wellbeing.
Where the middle class is deep-rooted, there democracy is resilient too, these commentators say, thus general wellbeing is sure. Look at the Scandinavian and West European Countries, they say, along with Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Oz: a thriving middle class is guarantee of stability and wise legislation. Where the middle class is weak or non-existent, as in some Latin American or Asian or African Countries where a small bunch of very wealthy families is sitting on the powder keg of a huge majority of desperate Havenots, there the political situation is volatile, democracy is a farce, foreign investment is staying out and perspectives of the future are bleak, they say. They love to mention how the disastrous Hitler's NAZIonalSozialisten success at the polls started in shaky Weimar Republic when currency inflation swept away that pillar of democracy, the virtuous middle class left to peter out in the cold with its worthless paper money. The same columnists prophesize hard times in Russia where, after centuries of czarist and then soviet misrule, a promising middle class was just starting up and now is being brushed away by Weimar-like inflation caused by today's awkward rulers.
Yes, maybe there is more than a grain of truth in all this, though we might question some aspects of middle-class-commonsense and relevant links to democracy. And above all: do such trifles as economic policy have any connection with the true Rich's aloof Inner Stance?
The answer seems obvious, but I am not so sure. A positive answer would imply that the Saccharomyces Rich have a mission within their middle class. But why on earth should they? As Groucho Marx said, why should I care for posterity? What did posterity for me? All that seems to me a bit confused and confusing. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. All the rest is a foggy maze. Will you help me to find out some guidelines through the maze?
We might venture together. As a junior colleague of you, dear Rich friends, I hope to be helped out of the labyrinth by your suggestions. We might try together to map the maze, in the second part of this essay.
(4.To be continued)