Who doesn’t want to be filthy rich? The awesome mansion, flashy cars, long holidays in exotic and expensive places, and mixing with beautiful people. Imagine, everything first class, having our very own plane so we can trip the world fantastic – warm sunshine all year! How great is that? And who wouldn’t want to be so rich they can ensure complete financial security for the rest of our lives? And yet, by simply wanting this dream, without knowing it, we have just become part of much bigger problem driving massive inequality, poverty, and the spread of deep-seeded prolonged unhappiness.
Put simply, just wanting a seemingly harmless dream has made us a contributing player to some of the worst problems of the world most of us abhor.
It doesn’t sound right, does it? How could it be?
It’s obvious once we recognise it is the top stones in a pyramid that are held up by the many others beneath.
Without even being aware of it, we are propping up the very means that divides our world and threatens our existence simply by wanting to be rich ourselves.
In essence, we are facing a viscous self-perpetuating cycle. We can make better sense of it by tracing how this all happen by looking at it from the top down.
At the top we have the most powerful and wealthy. They have their considerable wealth and power because they want it – badly. To get to the top takes great resolve and determination – you really have to crave it heart and soul. To achieve it means stepping over others to get there. If we are caring and driven to help others as our prime goal, we’d never have a chance against the ruthless uncompromising beasts ahead of us, they’d swat us out of the way, exploit our caring as a weakness, such as use it as leverage for blackmail or to corrupt us.
Where do the rich get their piles of stuff and bags of power from?
Most of what the wealthiest have comes from those less able to fight back.
Oh, they could compete with the other rich and powerful but that is too risky; they might actually lose! Better to exploit the less well-off to climb and stay on top.
They then divide us and make us like them.
Suppose our solution to the rich exploiting us is to pool our resources so we have to work less and still have plenty for our families – create common reserves and wealth for the bad times to share among the needy. Excellent, more excess for the rich to tax or extort from us. They may even cut our wages, clearly we can afford it; we seem to be doing quite well.
The more we help each other the more they take from us until the only way we see out of this misery…is to be like them.
Ah, when we are rich and powerful too then we can finally feel secure.
The rich force us to see the only solution is wealth and power. Soon we dream of it, we start to want to be rich, to be billionaires!
Then the rich help spread and embellish the dream, make their lifestyle ideal. To take it further they make it seem if you work hard you too can be like them. They let a few start to join their select group. They don’t let the lot of everyone improve, only a few. It is a smart strategy.
This increases the drive and dreams to be like the wealthy and powerful even more. We begin to think, yes, wealth is the answer – others who were struggling have made it, so can I. Worse, we start to believe the poor are poor and living unhappy lives, at the bottom of the heap, because they don’t work hard enough. We must work hard and realise our dream.
Wealth and power are now precious; if we lose it our safety and security are now under threat. Who from? The other wealth-driven people around us, especially the wealthiest and most powerful of all. We start to become competitors, allies at best, afraid of losing what we have and striving for more wealth and power to fix it; to be better than the rest. We become divided and lonely.
But here is the kicker: are the extremely rich really happy?
They will make it seem like they are, but ultimately basic human biology means they can’t be.
Human beings evolved to be social, to live in small groups of others we knew had our backs no matter what; we found safety and security in each other – among close friends. To miss this level of connections leaves a deep hollowness inside that can’t be filled by trinkets, planes, houses, or showing off how great we are, like being on the top!
In other words, not only are the rich forcing us to be and want to be like them they are dividing us and making us as miserable as they are.
Dream to be like them, however, and we have now validated them; we have now approved their cravings and methods and given them no reason to stop. Since we all want to be like them why try to stop something we aspire to? This means they are even more likely to keep exploiting us and making us live in fear unless we become like them.
The cycle then continues.
What is the alternative?
There are many steps and approaches. As a beginning we can begin by stepping out of their paradigm.
There are several ways. For example, we can start by recognising that the rich are only wealthy because we allow them to be; it is a privilege we – the majority – bestow upon them. We can tax them, make them share their wealth so we all live more prosperous lives and have better education, jobs, and health. We can do this anytime we choose – a large group has that power. Not even all their wealth and paid armies could stop us.
Next, we can make sure we don’t buy into their dream.
The more we support the dream of wanting to be rich like them the more we get caught in their nightmare. As we can see, the more we want to be billionaires the more we perpetuate the very social injustices and divisions we don’t want, not to mention personal misery – we increase unhappiness among us all.
Perhaps you don’t think wanting to be rich is a problem. Ok, then let me ask, why is a billionaire in the White House? If others didn’t want to be rich and have a lifestyle like him would he have become such a celebrity and now make his fellow billionaires wealthier still by giving them huge tax cuts? Would he now threaten the world economy with a trade war with China, or take steps almost ensuring a new conflict in the Middle East? As all extremely wealthy do, we can rest assured he is not interested in raising the standards of living of the majority, how could he feel so special and better than others if he did?
What we dream and strive for matters. It has real-world consequences.
What might be a more useful dream, one that helps us feel deeply happier by encouraging us to meet the basics?
How about the dreams that focus on deeper and more meaningful connection, of helping our partner, family, and those around us feel valued, appreciated, heard, respected, cared for and supported? Wouldn’t it feel better knowing truly caring, loving, people are around us? Unfortunately dreaming of great wealth does the opposite, it prevents these deeper bonds developing.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean we can’t live prosperous lives too - we can have a functional balance between a people-focused approach and a good standard of living. Friendly economies founded on mutual respect, valuing, listening, and appreciating each other offer more of us prosperity than selfishly competing. How? With less individuals hoarding so much it means more money in circulation - more money to buy goods and services. That means more jobs, and being treated well in your job in the process.
We have been sold a poisonous dream by pathological extremists. The question once we realise this: do we want to contribute to the ongoing mess the world is in or be part of the solution?
What do you dream of as the solution to your problems and the issues of the world?
How’s that working for you, and us?