Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Noblesse oblige, passee?

Well, well, well....

Yet another scientist informs us that, short of the sort of mind altering experience known to Scrooge (Dickens' nineteenth century version of an acid trip), today's wealthy, by and large, just aren't very nice guys. The more money one has the less likely one is to be genuinely empathetic with the needs of the less fortunate, or to even be truly aware of what 'less fortunate' means in real terms. I can't tell you how many times someone from the "upper classes" has tried to deny this fact to my face. Proof that Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. And did you see that idiot Buffet complaining how some banks were 'victims' of the few folks who managed to get any money out of their houses before the banks foreclosed. Poor baby. Tell you one thing, before this is all over, no one will be left on the sidelines. People will have to choose which side they're on. LIke we used to say in the 60s, you're either part of the solution or part of the problem.

From today's Bloomberg News:
Are society’s most noble actors found within society’s nobility?

That question spurred Paul Piff, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, to explore whether higher social class is linked to higher ideals, he said in a telephone interview.

The answer Piff found after conducting seven different experiments is: no. The pursuit of self-interest is a “fundamental motive among society’s elite, and the increased want associated with greater wealth and status can promote wrongdoing,” ...

The “upper class,” as defined by the study, were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to raise their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work, the research found. The solution, Piff said, is to find a way to increase empathy among wealthier people.

“It’s not that the rich are innately bad, but as you rise in the ranks -- whether as a person or a nonhuman primate -- you become more self-focused,” Piff said. “You can change that by reminding upper-class people of the needs of others. That may not be their default, but have them do it is sufficient to increase their patterns of altruistic behavior.”

How like the monkeys we are! Well said, and this is all to the good, no? (See previous post re RSA about increasing empathy in the world as the solution to world problems. Of course the Dalai Lama has been saying this for years. And though I empathize with the "human" problems of the wealthy – most well-off folks I know live rather lonely, though often busy, lives in denial of their loneliness – it doesn't mean I'm for letting them have their way with society at large). Perhaps, rather than turning their backs (the wealthy's version of "turn the other cheek") on the less fortunate (those who do the actual daily work that provides the wealthy with their wealth), this growing emphasis on raising consciousness among the privileged of what it is to be born to simply survive in the world will change things for the better. One certainly hopes so.

So after decades spent leaning over birthday candles and wishing, former aspiring Catholic saint that I am, only to be a "good person", it seems I took the trouble to save this comment from some forgotten site that rather succinctly expresses my current mindset :

"i don't want to better myself anymore.
i just want to surf the blogs, eat candy corn and pick dead leaves off
my plants."

a little break from the nutrace.

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