In Todd Mauldin’s view capitalism works the same way anarchy does: only in a perfect world where everybody cares about everybody else.
This post originated as an email, written as a reaction to Tom Matlack’s article I Hate Rich Guys, or Do I? Reprinted with permission.
Tom, I was outta town this weekend, camping. Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park.
My first reaction to your post “I Hate Rich People” is “hmm.” Then “wow.” Then “brave as usual.” I knew guys like you when I was a firefighter. They were the guys you could always depend on to be around the action and to know what they’re doing, but sometimes you’d be nervous on attack, if they were on the nozzle. You knew they’d lead the team a few steps further into the fire than was either comfortable OR safe.
And then, I wanted to respond. I wanted you in the room with me to engage you immediately in conversation about this topic. Or better yet, at my fire pit in my back yard, after dark, listening to the trains in the distance and the fountain on my porch. That should tell you, at least for me, you caught onto something.
I don’t hate much of anybody, I’ve staggered through too much shit to allow myself the luxury of only seeing or believing my own point of view and judgment. I CAN tell you as a general rule, rich people DO frustrate me.
I’ve held something like 50 jobs in my 44 years on the planet, and I’ve been in the bottom 5% of the income bracket before, and in the top 5% there for a couple of years. I’ve never seen the view from the dizzying heights of the top 0.01%, but I do know that Valmy, Nevada (population 38) is almost impossible to see from the 9573′ peak of Mt. Lewis in the Shoshone Range of Nevada, even though it’s only about 30 miles away. It’s like the people in Valmy don’t exist when you’re at that altitude.
And I know my story is uncommon. I have a high school education and three semesters of college. And somehow I get to do the work they let me do. All I can think is that I’ve gotten by on a weird mixture of talent, tenacity, and the Grace of God. My family is a bunch of highly-talented ne’er-do-wells, something like “The Royal Tenenbaums” set in the high desert of Nevada. There are only two of us who got away from that hairball and made anything approaching a financially successful life: me, and my cousin Matt, the doctor. My mom and dad have nothing, nor did or do any of their siblings. It’s as if their whole lives added up to nothing, if you keep score with money. Harsh, yeah, probably. But also true.
Now, I’m not financially successful anymore. I had no idea what to do with it when I had it, plus I’ve got some kind of defect where I just don’t GIVE a fuck about money. The unfortunate truth is, I’ve finally come to conclude that all I really give a fuck is about people. Relationships. Stumbling around in the world, sharing what we have, what we know, what we find out, what we don’t, and occasionally being around joy as well as badness. Full spectrum life is what I’m after, and I think, it requires community.
Like, anybody can screw up on their own. And some people can even recover on their own. But if nobody was around to see it, did it really happen? Who’d you share it with, you know? Doctor Who says to his companions “I’m being extremely clever up here and there’s no one here watching. What’s the point in having you all?”
Now: Seasick Steve once sang “I never met a rich man that I like” in a song called “Last Po’ Man,” in which he was talking about the stuff you’re talking about, the widening gap between rich and everybody else, including the middle class. He sang, “last po’ man, turn out the light.” He spent a lot of time as a hobo, so he’s seen it for real, the fact that you can’t even hobo and make a living any more.
So yeah, I think I agree with you, that people who are ONLY rich do, in fact, suck. Then again, that’s what’s up. That’s how they got there and that’s how they’ll stay there. I often tell my Objectivist friends, the Ayn Randers (I have a really diverse group of friends as you know), it seems like the rich folk’s philosophy can be summed up as “devil fuck the hindmost” with a bit of do-goodism to try to plaster that particular shit cupcake with delicious frosting. Then again, I know a lot of po’ folk who suck too. The fact is, man, the HARD fact is… it’s us. It’s humans. We’re screwing this all up. Lead-pipe capitalism works for everybody the same way ANARCHY works for everybody: only in a perfect world where everybody really cares about everybody else.
The middle way is a change in the human heart, it seems to me. We got to love people more than ANYTHING. Somehow.
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