I think one thing the so-called “Elite” don’t like about the middle class, and especially the lower middle class, is that they are happier than the Elite are. The Elite don’t like being reminded that money can’t buy happiness, although the tale of King Midas facing starvation because everything he touched turned to gold, and his grief when he even turned his daughter to gold, goes back to ancient Greece. Also Jesus stated “Blessed are the Poor” and “It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” Yet people never seem to learn.
Recently a certain branch of the Elite have taken their dislike of the middle class to a degree where they seem to be using the coronavirus as a screen for an effort to eradicate the middle class, by closing small businesses and banning public gatherings. However a group of old geezers I am part of simply met anyway. If churches are closed we simply joined “small groups” and “Bible studies”, and if taverns were shut we had coffee in private. And I enjoyed it and was happy, which likely would make the Elite madder, if they saw it. But I figured that, as an ex-smoker, I was one of the old fossils they are attempting to guilt everyone else into wearing masks to protect, and therefore I must be the most important person, (not a VIP but the MIP), and concluded anyone worth ruining the economy of the entire nation for should be allowed to have coffee with other MIPs.
I would call us a group of grumpy old men, only we laugh too much.
This morning we found ourselves discussing the current panic about shortages of gasoline, comparing it to the shortages of toilet paper which occurred a few months back. The consumption of gasoline is up 36%, though people are not driving 36% farther. We compared this to the huge increase in purchases of toilet paper, though people were not pooping all that much more.
To some degree such hoarding behavior is like the wise ant preparing for the shortages of winter, as opposed to the lazy grasshopper just fiddling, but on the other hand it seemed to be a display of worry.
Worry is based on fear and lack of faith, and these are not among the higher human attributes. Also worry is tainted with greed. I mused that such worry may even be what causes the Elite to become what they are. They want to be “safe”, and amass more and more and more stuff, even if it causes shortages and causes others to go without. The result, to their bafflement, is that they are miserable, while those who are going without are mysteriously happy.
Looking back over the years, I have never qualified as rich, ever since I left the privileged suburb I grew up in, and often have been penniless, yet have been happier, I think, than many of the Elite. I raised five children who are not on drugs, and have seven grandchildren, with three more on the way. I still am living hand-to-mouth, yet feel blessed. What do I have the Elite lack? It must be faith. Faith is the cure to worry.
Too often people feel they would be happy if only they had more money, or gasoline, or toilet paper, and this leads them to misbehaving, like people sometimes do at a Sale in a store when items are in short supply. In some Sales people get in fights over rediculous things like undergarments, having tug-of-wars that tear the garment and render it useless to either person. In fact a sales technique is to stir up such greed and panic with phases such as “supply limited” and “Sale ends at midnight.” The best salesman can convince people they desperately need what they don’t.
Then you watch people who succeed in getting what they so deeply desired, and it is amazing how unhappy they become, though there may be an initial time of elation. The successful artist lolls in the limelight of riches and fame, and then later you see them arrested and disgraced. (Randy Travis springs to mind.) Then one sometimes sees them rescued from ruin by a spiritual awakening. (Johnny Cash springs to mind.) Or one sees a person win a million in the lottery, and their life be utterly ruined by the money.
As I sat with my group of old men I spoke of what I have learned as I moved from privileged unhappiness to blessed poverty. (They have to put up with me going on about a novel I’m happily scribbling called, “Phatty Buggers”, which describes this education). I said we need a word for the spiritual poverty of spirit the Elite unwittingly embrace, and the needless pain they suffer. I tried out a few words like “Eliteobia” and Wealthitis,” when a friend suggested, “Affluenza.”
“That’s It!” I bellowed, and was vigorously pumping his hand for coining such an excellent word when he said he hadn’t coined it.
The earliest use we could find, as we consulted various search engines, was from a PBS show in 1997.
Of course, this being PBS, they took the socialist tack. They tend to suggest we should feel guilty for success and prosperity. It almost is as if a farmer should feel guilty for growing a good crop, as if hard work was an example of greed. In actual fact they are two quite different things.
Money is not the problem, but love of money is. Love of money involves the worry I was talking about earlier, and drives people to sacrifice good elements of life for mere “stuff”. People prioritize the wrong things, making life unlivable in the name of “safety”.
For example, part of my childhood involved having scabs on my knees. Likely there were more days I had scabs on my knees than days I didn’t. However some are so over-protective of children, and worry so much, that they want to bubble-wrap childhood, inadvertently depriving their children of much of the fresh air and exercise they need. At the same time, wishing to “educate”, they make children feel environmentalism means nature is so fragile one should never walk in the woods for fear of harming moss by treading a path, which denies children the wonders of communing with nature, and even to feeling they are enemies of nature, and nature hates them. I was so appalled by such childrearing that I started my Childcare on a farm, to oppose such worry.
Of course I faced some opposition. How dare I say scabs were a good thing to have on knees!? What sort of cruel monster was I !? All I could do at first was say they could go to another Childcare, if they wanted their kid to grow up to be a…..(At this point my wife would usually intervene, asking me to go fix a fence on the far side of the farm. She was far more skilled at diplomacy.)
So was Kim John Payne. He tended traumatized children in refugee camps until he himself was traumatized, and sought escape by tending privileged children in wealthy neighborhoods, and to his astonishment and dismay became aware privileged children were suffering the same ailments as refugees. In 2010, about two years after we began our Childcare, he published his scientific conclusions:
In essence Kim John Payne’s book states less is more. How many times do we need to rediscover this? Is it not what Jesus stated when he said, “Blessed are the poor?”
In conclusion, we need to stand up to Affluenza. Do not allow the media to push your buttons and trigger panic. Not that you shouldn’t top off your gas tank, but you shouldn’t do so in a tizzy. Have faith. In God We Trust. And fight off the tendency to worry, (though, as Robin Williams discovered, it can be the most difficult thing).