What Wealth Does To Your Soul – Part 2

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With this post I will conclude my discussion about what might make the wealthy among us seem so callous to others needs. The source for these posts came as a surprise to me. Here is some more quotes from that article.

A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: If you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”… THERE IS AN OBVIOUS chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: It triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen…. There is a growing awareness that the yawning gap between rich and poor is no longer a matter of simple justice but also the enemy of economic success and human happiness. It’s not just bad for the poor. It’s also bad for the rich. It’s funny, when you think about it, how many rich people don’t know this. But they are not idiots; they can learn. SOURCE:What wealth does to your soul – The Week.

I’m still not convinced that the lack of empathy is a result of a chemical change in the brain but it is interesting to think about that possibility. What happens if the rich person looses all his wealth? Will empathy come back? I kind of believe that it is more of a learned thing or maybe one of a rationalization based on greed. Yeah this is kind of chicken/egg thing. Which came first the riches or the lack of empathy?

My empathy is such an important part of my life I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t embrace it in themselves. It just seems too cold and callous to think only of yourself. To me that wouldn’t be a life worth living.

The gap between the rich and the poor grows daily now and since the rich have consumed almost all of the political and economic power it will only get worse unless something radical changes it. Wall Street is driven almost totally to providing profits to their share owners. There is little regard for workers in today’s world. As the highlighted area says I don’t think the rich are idiots but I can’t fathom why they don’t understand that when you put a stranglehold on consumers by not letting them share in the prosperity you endear you are drying up the well that give you your wealth.

4 thoughts on “What Wealth Does To Your Soul – Part 2

  • I agree that there is an entire generation that has grown up Godless. They are spawning those who have no need to have empathy. They only see empathy for themselves- much like the kings and queens and emperors and false hearted leaders of the past. The difference is that in our country- we are the ones who permit them to grow without God. I am not speaking religions and churches- but the basics of serving someone other than yourself. If you do not know God (whom ever your believe s/he to be) then you have no reason to serve anyone but yourself- for it is all about today and what can make ME better? Rich or poor- I believe empathy is learned and nourished.

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  • I find it particularly irksome when wealthy people and politicians are so disrespectful that they portray the poor as being somehow totally responsible for their situation and that they just need to work harder pull themselves up out of poverty… while at the same time they stress that the wealthy have “earned” their money and should be respected for doing so. When they do “give” it’s usually for their own pompous self-aggrandizement.
    As usual R.J., you have brought up an interesting topic. I think I will search around for more information on this wealth/mind connection. Thanks.

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  • I am glad to see that I sparked some thinking in you two. I have to study this some more also but I kind of agree with both of you. Empathy is a learned behavior and it primarily driven out by greed and narcissism.

    I agree with you Janette that there is the light of God in each of us but in order for it to grow it must be nurtured and fed. From what I read it is not being Godless but rather churchless that is happening among many younger people. Too many religious institutions have invented so much politically motivated doctrine that young people can see right through. Past generations, including mine, have ignored that ever present link and joined anyway. They are just not willing to do that.

    If you believe the statistics put out by the Barna group many young people seek spirituality wherever they can find it. It is up to us to show them what it means to be spiritual. In the last five years or so we have been getting more and more young people showing up at the soup kitchen asking if they can help. Most don’t come back but a couple of times. But I look at that optimistically it that we planted the seed which will grow as they age. I am more optimistic than pessimistic about this topic than either of you seem to be. I believe the growing emergent church groups will eventually fill that gap but it is not an overnight thing…

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