What Wealth Does To Your Soul – Part 2

2015-01-02_09-01-08

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.

What wealth does to your soul

One thing that has struck me and so many others as a very deadly thing to our country is the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. Another is how many in the rich category seem to be uncaring and even callous to those who don’t have the luxury that they have.

That fact struck me at a personal level when we were recently on a visit with some relatives. I know the age old mantra to not discuss religion or politics at family get-togethers but sometimes we foolishly ignore that advice. During some discussions with a niece the rich/poor gap came up. She basically started railing about all “those” people who are milking the welfare system. She seemed to totally reject the idea that not everyone who needs help are freeloaders.  My niece has a pretty good job that supports her husband and child with many luxuries in life. She is by no means rich but she also doesn’t have to worry much about day-to-day expenses. So when recently I came across this article it got my immediate attention. Here are some snippets:

2015-01-02_09-01-08WHAT IS CLEAR about rich people and their money — and becoming ever clearer — is how it changes them. A body of quirky but persuasive research has sought to understand the effects of wealth and privilege on human behavior — and any future book about the nature of billionaires would do well to consult it… The people driving expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of other drivers than drivers of cheap cars. The researchers then followed the drivers to the city’s crosswalks and positioned themselves as pedestrians, waiting to cross the street. The drivers in the cheap cars all respected the pedestrians’ right of way. The drivers in the expensive cars ignored the pedestrians 46.2 percent of the time — a finding that was replicated in spirit by another team of researchers in Manhattan, who found drivers of expensive cars were far more likely to double-park… There is plenty more like this to be found, if you look for it. A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below 25 grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. 

SOURCE:What wealth does to your soul – The Week.

The behavior exhibited by my niece is what I call “I’ve Got Mine So Screw You”. There are many people who just don’t seem to care about those who are much worse off than they are. I guess it didn’t surprise me too much that those same people are more likely to treat others in a subservient manner. They are also likely to keep more for themselves than to give to others.  They are simply the Takers instead of the Givers…

On the next post we will delve into some of the surprising findings of just why this trait is applicable to so many of the “better offs” among us. I want to close here by narrowing my brush and say that not all who are wealthy are greedy, careless people. Many give very much of themselves and their money…

I Can't Do It For Them….

2014-11-06_09-28-42This is going to be an extremely soul-searching post for me. It has been a week since the GOP route in the mid-term elections and I have been thinking about my philosophical and political leanings. Two things seem now apparent to me that were not so just a few short months ago.

The first epiphany  is that I am not so much a Democrat as I am anti-Republican. There is just too much weight amongst the current Republican party in favor of the elite and so little for the average guy and almost nothing for the guy down on his luck. In my mind too many who currently represent the party believe in the mantra “I’ve got mine so screw you”. They seem to think that if you can’t do what they did then it is your own fault. Too many, like Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin, just have no empathy for others..

The Republican brand is quite simply tainted too much for me. I call myself a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. If only the Republican party would stick to their strengths of being a watchdog of the purse and get away from trying to enforce, or you could say mandate, various versions of 19th century morals on the rest of us. By the same token if only the Democratic party would get over the idea that throwing money at any situation will solve it.

The second epiphany is that I have come to understand that “I can’t do it for them”. That is I can’t help people who won’t help themselves. The majority of those who bothered to get out and vote recently were old and white like me. The young, the disenfranchised, the guy working one or maybe minimum wage job stayed home. He/she didn’t see it worth their time to make an effort to vote for the change makers.

I am probably a typical “bleeding heart liberal” in that most of the change I would like to see in this country would not affect me very much:

I want to see everyone have healthcare while I currently have very good coverage via Medicare and an affordable supplemental policy.

I want to see everyone who works full-time be paid a living wage while I am fortunate enough to have Social Security, a good pension from thirty years with the same company, and a savings account beyond most my age.

I want to see a strong safety net under those who might fall on hard times. I want to see that their families don’t get severely punished for something they had no control over while I, at least in my adult life, have never needed a safety net.

I just overflow with empathy for others where it seems most in this country are more into the survival of the fittest mode. Maybe empathy is a condition I need to overcome, I don’t know. I’m sure that many that I advocate for think they are helpless in changing things. They just can’t seem to realize that in the end their vote  has as much weight as the billionaires who they presently allow to control the money.

Maybe it is time for me to get off my empathy horse and not worry about all this stuff so much. I simply don’t know the answer to that right now. I imagine I have about one more decade on this earth. Maybe I should spend it differently than I have been up till now?

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

 

It’s All About Empathy….

On my self description to the right here I claim to be a passionate altruist. I want to expand on that statement and also ponder those who seem to have an opposite view of the world. First let’s look at a couple of definitions:

Altruism — the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others

Empathy —  understanding and entering into another’s feelings

These two descriptions are a major part of my being.  I unashamedly shed  tears when I witness those who are struggling through life with one affliction or another.  While mine has not been nearly as severe as others I can most often put myself into their shoes and understand their struggles.  The second thing that is paramount to my being is my belief that Jesus Christ came to earth to teach me how to have life and have it to its fullest.  Also to the right I claim to be a “follower of Jesus”. That is I am totally convinced that he intends us to follow his examples and teaching while we are on this earth. I’m not sure which came first, they both appear to be part of my nature.

When others are concentrating on celebrities, sports jocks, or others of authority or wealth I am watching waiters, manual laborers, especially those trapped in a minimum wage job.  While others rail against all those “takers” out there I am doing what I can to help those in need. Yes, I recognize that a small minority of people who are on various public welfare roles are gaming the system to get something they don’t need or deserve but I will never be willing to deny help to all the ones who truly need it in order to prevent those few from taking advantage of the system.

I see so many self-proclaimed Christians out there that let their fear control their behavior in this regard. But then again I also see far too many who focus on God’s supposed wrath rather than his love.  I see God loving every being that he created and wanting all to eventually come to him while others see a god who is watching them every second to find an excuse for condemning them to an eternity of pain and extreme suffering.  I guess our worldviews are dictated by which man-made version of God we believe in.  As for me I will alway live in the shadow of a loving God not in fear of a god of wrath and vengeance .

Concern for others, hopefully always above self but aware that that is not always the case, and understanding another’s feelings is my driving force in life. I could just not live in that other worldview of fear and hatred especially when it comes to my spiritual self.  I will try to understand that those who follow the opposite tract are mostly living in fear instead of love. I will always try to pray that they someday will understand that and give themselves over to the light that is within all of us….

This was a very deep and emotional post for me but for some reason I needed to say it….

Group Pictures…

Bedford Picture Merge3

For some unknown reason I have always been fascinated by group pictures such as shown in my revised header above and a larger copy here. I love looking at each individual face and trying to imagine their life story.  In studying local history such as from the picture above I have come to understand just how hard previous generations have it compared to ours. It makes me appreciate all that I have today.

We must remember that our grandparents, or maybe great grandparent, often time worked a twelve-hour day six days a week to just put bread on the table for their family. I suspect that many in the picture above due to working around limestone came down with emphysema and other such lung related problems.  Many, like their coal miner brethren, likely died of lung cancer.  There is still a very strong limestone industry just south of where I live. But I am sure that their employer now takes the necessary precautions to prevent such dangerous environments that those in this picture faced.

I am not much of a collector as such.  I do have a few “Simplify” signs strewn around my study that I have been collecting for a decade or so.  I am now on the lookout for pictures like the above.  I take digital copies where I can but I would really like to gather some of the old originals. I have had that opportunity in the past but sadly didn’t take advantage of it.

For some reason I look at group pictures and have a sense of empathy for all those who posed in front of a camera many years ago. I think that is one of the reasons I have such a passion for local histories.  During the past twelve years my wife and I have made at least one annual trek to various cities within a day or two driving distance. We spend much of our time there studying its history. I have collected many books and such and I will soon be presenting in a new blog. For those who might be interested I will be  giving you more info about this new project soon.

In order to appreciate what we have today we must understand how those who have lived before us helped shape our present world.

The Two Faces of Paul Ryan….

I have spent the better part of a week looking at the new vice presidential candidate for the GOP. Up until now I was not familiar with him other than superficially. This will be the last post in this area so I am going to try to summarize what I have learned about the man.

  • Paul Ryan is definitely a passionate person who is true to his principles  taught to him by his heroes in life such as Ayn Rand who says money is the source of all good and altruism is stupid. I’m also sure he thinks each one of his ideas is somehow for the greater good of the country.
  • As shown by his recent convention speech he is a very articulate person to much the same degree as Barak Obama but at the exact opposite end of the political spectrum.
  • He adamantly supported the stimulus packages of President Bush in both 2002 and 2008 but when a Democratic president was just continuing the same it somehow became totally wrong to him.  Everything he supported during the Bush years are now somehow unacceptable.  That seems highly partisan to me and that is not something I want to continue seeing in our elected leaders in the coming years.
  • His budget proposal that he claims is compassionate is totally rejected by his faith leaders in the Catholic church as very uncaring for the least among us.
  • 62% of his proposed budget cuts for 2012 comes from cuts to the country’s safety net. This is hard to take especially when at the same time he is proposing big additional increases in our already very blotted military spending. Since we spend about forty times more than any other country on our war machine he seems to be a hawk to the nth degree.
  • He plays politics with the best of them. He gets people from the other party on board by promising things that he then leaves them out of his proposed bill when it is submitted. He then wonders why the colleagues who he betrayed object to his calling his bill bipartisan. These types of actions show he can’t be trusted to keep his word.
  • His original proposal for “fixing” Medicare was to give seniors a limited voucher to buy private insurance. If the private carrier even agreed to offer them insurance they would end up paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for less coverage than their current Medicare plan. Because of the huge backlash he modified his plan somewhat but given his propensity to got back on his word I think we have to assume that the first option if it could be passed is his preference.
  • He is a favorite of the radical fringe Tea Party. This alone says much about his spirit of compassion and compromise.
  • But maybe worst of all is that he seems to enthusiastically want to toss aside the people at the lower end of our society in order for the upper echelons to prosper even more.  Ayn Rand, who is his hero taught him well in that area.
  • Finally, I’m sure Mr. Ryan is a good family man who loves his wife and children but he seems to lack even a basic empathy for so many others.

At the end of this week-long investigation I still don’t understand why my clergy friend from the past reveres him so.  On the surface Mr. Ryan seems like a nice guy but when you look at his other face he has a very narrow and seemingly dark view of life.

There are three qualities I believe must be used to judge a person’s character. One is his spiritual side; does he have a moral compass? The second is who are his heroes in life are and the third is whether he is true to his word; in other words can he be trusted? Even from this cursory study of Mr. Ryan I don’t see a lot about him in any of these three categories that entices me to vote the GOP ticket this time around.