There’s a very simple way to get even with those rich and filthy Raiders of the Lost Treasury. (Yes, “lost” is an accurate word to describe a Treasury in an $11-trillion free fall.)
How do you get even? Here are a few thoughts on how that can happen. (Since being rich in itself is okay—i.e. Paul Newman—I’ll refer to the treasury raiders as the filthy rich.)
Without even being aware of it, a whole lot of us concede to the filthy rich the notion that they are somehow superior to the rest of us. We do that especially when standing in their presence. “Look at how successful they are!” we mutter to ourselves, as we regret all the ways it failed to happen for us. Never mind that their love of money has made their success a triumph of bad manners.
In self-deception some of us might say to ourselves, “Hey, I’m as good as anybody!” But, emotionally, it’s a whole different story. We let the rich bushwhack and bamboozle us. Why is that?
Often, human interactions are experienced unconsciously in terms of who has the upper hand and who is the superior person. Being rich provides a powerful means to override self-doubt and even to feel superior. Great wealth doesn’t eliminate self-doubt, of course; it just helps to keep it at bay.
Typically, when an insecure person is in the company of a rich person, he or she will concede either consciously or unconsciously that the rich person is superior. Still, the insecure person can gain an illusion of importance and value just by being in the presence of the rich person. Thus, the insecure person in this situation can have an emotional investment in augmenting the “superiority” of the rich person. Such deference, in turn, pays well.
A person has to be quite evolved to consistently feel his or her great intrinsic value. We have to have cleared out of our system or our psyche at least some of the unresolved conflicts and hidden negativity that undermine belief in our goodness and worthiness. Otherwise, there’s too much self-doubt for us to feel our value, let alone for us to have a mind of our own.
One of humanity’s most urgent quests is to find ways to feel superior to avoid feeling inferior. As Mark Twain put it, “We ignore and never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval, in every emergency and at all costs.” Racism is one of man’s tricks to try to feel superior in order to avoid feeling inferior. Racism is on the wane, but fame, celebrity, and money can still do the trick.
In addition to our sense of value, our impression of our own power or lack of it is at play in our thoughts and fantasies of wealth. We’ve all heard the mantra, “Money is power.” Money can have the same strong impact on the human psyche as food, love, and sex, and it ignites the childish fantasy of grandeur and omnipotence. As long as our integrity and sense of self can be eroded by money, we make the emotional association that money equals power.
Many of us have trouble believing in our own authority and feeling our autonomy. The abortion debate, for instance, is about whether an individual has the authority to make a life-or-death decision concerning a fetus. Consciously and unconsciously, we expect power and authority to override our own undeveloped sense of self. From this inner default position, we anticipate the need to be passive in some context, just as we can be passive to our own unkind and harsh inner critic. This makes us easy prey for those rich people who are bursting with the delusion of their own power.
For these psychological reasons, we concede our power to the rich. We have created a “reality” that makes their dominance over us seem entirely legitimate. What we’ve really done is to create a vacuum in our democracy that they have merrily filled. It’s time to fill the void with a rebirth of ourselves as truly sovereign people.
Generally speaking, we don’t really connect emotionally with the meaning, the rights, and the requirements of citizenship. We have a general sense of being privileged to be members of this powerful, dynamic nation. We do connect to the nation emotionally through the sense of patriotism. But patriotism is easy to feel—any child or even any fool can have it.
We have to achieve something more demanding. Individually, we need to connect to the integrity, courage, and self-respect that come from making progress in our personal, intellectual, moral, or psychological development.