I remember talking to a friend, many years ago, who mentioned that one of his cousins had been elected to the US House of Representatives. "You must be very proud of him," I said, which seemed quite reasonable to me at least. He said, with irritation, "I have more money than he does." Obviously that struck me as odd, because I remember it, over thirty years later.
Why did he see it as a comparative thing? Could you not be proud of someone and also be proud of yourself?
How is money comparable with political achievement? I don't say it's easy to make a lot of money, but it's also not easy to get elected to such a high office.
We were young enough at the time so that such high achievement of someone of our generation was pretty exceptional.
Over the years, I've made it a point not to care how much money someone has. I feel like I'm doing both of us a favor. Because who wants to be seen as merely a bank account. They already must get a lot of that. I'm going to be the friend that sees past that, and remembers who you were before the money happened. Also, I think it's fairly pragmatic, because their money really has no meaning for me. It's not as if they're going to give me any. It's their money. If it makes them happy, then I'm happy for them. But I don't see why I should defer to them.
Then I read this Paul Krugman column a few days ago, that explains that what the super-rich want from us is not only for us to be poor, but also for us to defer to them as if they were more than human. To the extent that it's true, it gives the rest of us a lot of power that they probably shouldn't want to give us. There's no law that says we have to defer to them. If they think they're entitled to deference, they live in the wrong country. If anything, a request for deference is likely to get me to say something offensive about rich people.
See, I know the truth. Rich people need to sleep, eat, drink plenty of fluids and exercise. They will get old and die. Their children give them grief, as do their siblings and parents. They feel insecure. And they are human.
Bill Gates, once had an appreciation for this, and I assume still does. Someone asked why a guy who's worth billions flies coach. He said the coach section gets there at the same time the first class section does.