Author Topic: Rich Asshole Syndrome  (Read 2732 times)

OzzieandHarriet

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Rich Asshole Syndrome
« on: September 27, 2019, 04:02:10 PM »
Some of the themes touched on in this piece relate to topics we talk about on these forums - whether money = happiness, or how much is enough. I personally struggle with how to do charity, where to and how much to give.

https://www.wired.com/story/why-are-rich-people-so-mean/?bxid=5beee32d1708b13dfa1513bd&cndid=55441865&esrc=bounceX&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_092619&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=list1_p4

Wrenchturner

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2019, 07:00:57 PM »
It's all fun and games until you kill two people your wife kills two people with a boat.

(Kevin O'Leary)

maizeman

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2019, 07:40:42 PM »
A fascinating read, thank you for posting, OzzieandHarriet.

I think there is something to the idea that we tend to distance ourselves from those who have a lot less than us as a protective mechanism. Good to be conscious of this as beyond a certain point it doesn't sound like it is much good for society or the personal emotional wellbeing of the potential rich asshole themselves.

Some mitigating strategies are obvious: Don't isolate yourself in a community of other potential rich assholes. Others may be less obvious, but it would be interesting to see more psychological research into how to mitigate the emotional and social side effects of accumulating more money than most people, rather than more and more studies just revalidating that those side effects exist.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2019, 11:08:52 AM »


Some mitigating strategies are obvious: Don't isolate yourself in a community of other potential rich assholes.

This isolation certainly happens.  My wealthy family members (retired) are surrounded by other wealthy people.  I am probably the poorest person they know in their age group.  And since I am not poor, they have basically no contact with people of limited means.

sui generis

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2019, 02:03:19 PM »
I appreciated this article and see myself in it in some ways.  In my early retirement, I've taken on several volunteering jobs, one of which is staffing a reproductive justice hotline.  One element of what interested me here is that I knew I'd be much more exposed than I have been since I was a child to poverty.  And that that would be a good thing for *me* as much as the good I could do for our callers.  I've only been doing it for a little over 6 months, but the results are to some degree bimodal and confusing, like I think the article is.

For instance, the article starts out talking about how rich people's exposure to inequality makes them less generous.  The author uses their experience in India and the emotional scar tissue they grew as an example and cited:
Quote
Côté found that “higher-income individuals are only less generous if they reside in a highly unequal area or when inequality is experimentally portrayed as relatively high.”

But then, later they cite, as encouragement, evidence that seems pretty opposed to the above:
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In one study, they showed subjects a short video—just 46 seconds long—about childhood poverty. They then checked the subjects’ willingness to help a stranger presented to them in the lab who appeared to be in distress. An hour after watching the video, rich people were as willing to lend a hand as were poor subjects.

So is exposure to inequality helpful or hurtful?  Does it make RAS worse or better?  I'm a little torn in my own experience because sometimes I do get, perhaps, inured to the inequality I'm seeing and have some less-than-charitable thoughts about our callers. Other times, I think how it *has* been valuable for me to learn how hard it is to be poor.  Or more precisely, to empathize with it over repeated exposures to it that I'd never get from just reading articles or something about how hard it is to be poor.  And it makes it less easy for me to be callous at other times.

An interesting read, nonetheless, and pulls together many strings I've read in disparate articles.  I certainly agree that the question of how selfishness arose is better than how altruism did for our species and also decry the "greed is good" mentality that's been celebrated for the duration of my life.

Johnez

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2019, 02:32:03 PM »
^What I got out of it was that being isolated from poverty causes one to build up mental callouses when exposed to poverty. Going from isolated to in the middle of it brings that reaction. The exposure of poverty causes one to mentally either recoil or to empathize, and I'm guessing the longer and deeper the isolation, the less empathy expressed.
***
Fascination article. It is almost as if the higher one goes up the wealth pyramid, the more subconsciously one feels paranoid or fearful about getting knocked off. And then justifications are manufactured to keep one in their position and the poors in their position.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2019, 09:26:00 AM »
The article helped me understand how much our society emphasizes money as the one true objective in life, and how weird that is. We send our kids to school so they can get good-paying jobs, not so they can feel a spark of joy from reading Epicurus someday or so their life’s work can be the resolution of a social problem. We keep believing the advertising that says we’ll be happy if we buy just this one more thing, despite the thousands of times that advice has failed us before. The people we respect all have money, and we learn to respect them through our screens, which are financed by people who want our money. All that we do seems oriented toward becoming a better trader of our lifetimes for money, but we do not ask whether such a trader could ever be considered prosperous.

Compare this society to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who sent their children to schools of philosophy so that they might learn to figure out for themselves the “why” and the “how” of the good life. Who do you know today who has even considered asking such questions? We have a cultural default belief about the good life, and it involves spending lots of money- ideally more than others are spending.

In place of self-examination, our culture has businesses who will take your money in exchange for a sort of prepackaged sense of meaningfulness, social reassurance that we are good people despite our riches, and of course the social status and respectability we crave, obtained at a discount compared to the alternative of earning respect through helping people.

The whole society works as a system, consuming the lives of both rich and poor in the struggle to consume more than someone else. We think we have it made, but can’t even buy the things our ancestors took for granted: a breath of clean air, a dedicated friend in the real world, and the ability to focus on anything but work.

Philociraptor

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2019, 09:47:57 AM »
How interesting. I feel like I read the article before but maybe it was just something similar. Spot-on with learning to avoid eye contact and walk around the homeless when travelling. Personally I don't feel any desire to give away money. Does that mean I have RAS? I definitely get annoyed when I get mailers from charities, thinking "why are they wasting their money trying to get mine?" Should I call them and tell them to stop sending mailers? The return address stickers are nice though.

This year we started donating $25/month each to 4 different non-profits. I don't really get any good feelings from it and have been considering cancelling them. Need to ponder on what action I can take that would be best.

Wrenchturner

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2019, 02:39:50 PM »
I think there's a lot of conflation going on in the article.  Often times, wealth piles up for disagreeable people since they push everything else out of their way to achieve their goals.  Conscientious people will out-work everyone else at the expense of things that others might value(like hobbies or a family).

People that are conscientious AND disagreeable are incredibly difficult to compete with.

That's just a couple temperamental issues, among others with this article.

Please note, people that are disagreeable are not necessarily assholes, although they are often perceived this way, mainly due to their willingness to confront problems immediately and attempt to resolve them quickly, rather than agreeable people who will smooth the waters, tell people what they want to hear, and then remain passive aggressive due to their unresolved concerns.  Neither position is absolutely correct, and I think our society emphasizes agreeableness too much.

js82

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2019, 08:19:20 PM »
Please note, people that are disagreeable are not necessarily assholes, although they are often perceived this way, mainly due to their willingness to confront problems immediately and attempt to resolve them quickly, rather than agreeable people who will smooth the waters, tell people what they want to hear, and then remain passive aggressive due to their unresolved concerns.  Neither position is absolutely correct, and I think our society emphasizes agreeableness too much.

I think you need to draw a distinction between the "conflict-avoidance" flavor of agreeableness (i.e. telling people what they want to hear) and the "team play" version of agreeableness, in which reciprocal unselfishness can sometimes yield better results than power struggles.  The former(of which there is too much) is problematic and results in problems not being solved, while the latter(of which there is often too little) can often yield better results than when everyone is fighting to get their own way.  Similarly, there's a difference between the "I'm going to stand up for what's right, even if it's unpopular" flavor of disagreeableness and the "I'm a selfish jerk who only cares about myself" type of disagreeableness.

Regardless, as to the original topic in this thread, I think spending time with those who are significantly different from oneself is a good way to cultivate empathy.  And empathy goes a long way towards prevention of jerkdom.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2019, 08:25:59 PM by js82 »

Wrenchturner

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2019, 08:55:03 PM »
Please note, people that are disagreeable are not necessarily assholes, although they are often perceived this way, mainly due to their willingness to confront problems immediately and attempt to resolve them quickly, rather than agreeable people who will smooth the waters, tell people what they want to hear, and then remain passive aggressive due to their unresolved concerns.  Neither position is absolutely correct, and I think our society emphasizes agreeableness too much.

I think you need to draw a distinction between the "conflict-avoidance" flavor of agreeableness (i.e. telling people what they want to hear) and the "team play" version of agreeableness, in which reciprocal unselfishness can sometimes yield better results than power struggles.  The former(of which there is too much) is problematic and results in problems not being solved, while the latter(of which there is often too little) can often yield better results than when everyone is fighting to get their own way.  Similarly, there's a difference between the "I'm going to stand up for what's right, even if it's unpopular" flavor of disagreeableness and the "I'm a selfish jerk who only cares about myself" type of disagreeableness.

Regardless, as to the original topic in this thread, I think spending time with those who are significantly different from oneself is a good way to cultivate empathy.  And empathy goes a long way towards prevention of jerkdom.

You're completely right, my comment was a hasty one, and somewhat thrown together.  (Not uncommon from me).

There are benefits and disadvantages to both types and I framed them mostly as a response to the characterization in the article(why are rich people so mean).

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2019, 11:19:50 PM »

Montecarlo

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Re: Rich Asshole Syndrome
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2019, 05:27:54 AM »
This all kinda fits in to the theme on the Climate Apocalypse thread, that Capitalism will ultimately be the death of us all.

No, capitalism will be the death of those who didn’t win at capitalism