20131220

The Big Question on Wealth (satire)


"People who value being wealthy as an end in itself (rather than an outcome on achieving other life goals) are less happy and more prone to depression." — J. M. Zwenge & W. K. Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living In The Age of Entitlement; "Ninjas in McMansions", page 129; Chapter 8: "I Deserve The Best At 18% APR."

Eventually, state the authors, materialism that raises one's status is self-destructive. Why is status-driven materialism dangerous? Such materialism is self-destructive, and may lead to bankruptcy, unhappy marriages, and even divorce.

Yet narcissists would be the first to deny that their desire for status has destroyed their lives, as long as they have credit cards, a couple million hidden away in the Grand Cayman Island, and a limousine driven by a trusted chauffeur.

Indeed, who in their right mind would declare to the world that "money is nothing" and transform their energy to practice materialistic consumerism into humanistic philanthropy? By framing the question as such, the narcissist lives in denial of moral poverty.

Earning power is not dependent on soundness of mind, for a few of today's billionaires have never finished college. Sometimes, even their behaviour when seeking status and power takes appears sociopathic.

Are we really entitled to wealth as a measure of our success? This question cannot be answered with a firm "Yes" or "No" because money is supposed to be a measure of your achievement in your life, rich or poor.


Keeping Up with the Joneses

Suppose we have two brothers we'll call Gerald and Samuel Jones. Being the financial success in the family, the older Gerald dotes on his elderly parents for helping him to succeed in life. Meanwhile, Samuel has become the "black sheep" of the family.

Years ago, Samuel had been financially cut off because he couldn't pay his bills on time. After the $15,000 bailout for a student loan, all Samuel does instead of completing his degree in Computer Science is spend too much time on the computer.

In contrast, not only is Gerald a financial success, he has recently married Louise. He has argued with his mother over giving Sam any money, to which Mrs. Jones replied "If I don't give him spending money, then he will leave me and go on welfare. That would ruin the family name if he did it."

What Mrs. Jones means is, Sam is captivated by his mother's narcissistic personality; and is willing to trade his independence for dependence on her.

If this imaginary family seems normal to you, except for Sam, then you have not read between the lines. Mr Jones died 15 years ago, but left the family with a hefty inheritance. With Mrs. Jones as the executor of Mr. Jones' will, and Gerald as co-executor, he has ensured that he could invest wisely and maintenance an active investment portfolio which made him a millionaire.

However, Sam was the pampered child, due to ADHD and depression, plus years of Ritalin use. Currently he lives at home. Once a week, his mother gives him spending money. Due to his lack of employment, she pampers him and sometimes may be hear to say "You don't need to go find a job. Your dad left you with a trust fund."

Sadly though, this trust fund is managed by his brother, Gerald, who only doles out his brother"s weekly stipend. Originally he had allowed the trust fund to fund Sam's slow but sure path from college student to drop out with only six months of work, and an offer of internships.

In the end Sam never sought out work because he likes it at home. Although he is fine with the arrangements as it is, Sam wishes he had mone control over his finances. Luckily he knows better than to be a spendthrift but his ADHD in adulthood has made it difficult to hold a job because his behaviour is "odd". At one point, the college president considered him a security threat due to rumours of him being "psychotic".

Since colleges are not in the habit of measuring the learning disabilities that might be comorbid with ADHD, the college staff and some students who have interacted with Sam socially are unnerved by his sometimes erratic and often confrontational behavior.

Honestly, Sam did not quit university; he had to quit because after his brother Gerald got married, nobody could be at home to help out their mother. A housekeeper was totally out of the question, since Mrs. Jones has a peculiar way of putting away the dishes and glasses.

In this story, the mother of two boys might have an undiagnosed narcissistic personality. We do not know about the father, but since he left his surviving family, he must have been a CEO who spent a lot of time away working to afford the mansion his younger son and wife now live. He may too be undiagnosed.

As for the older son Gerald, his narcissistic personality is in check. This allowed him to date, court and marry his wife, who may have had the neurotic urge to avoid moving into his parents' house due to her poor self image.

Lastly, Sam has ADHD but had controlled it throughout childhood. However, the stress of finishing college led him to "drop out" to support his mother. Since both he and his brother have worked together on their mother's will, they both know they will be entitled to a lot of the inheritance when their mother passes on.

In my imaginary family, it appears that nobody is sociopathic except for the reason why Sam actually dropped out, for he was actually asked quietly to leave due to his ineptness in a failed romance with a lovely lady named Sue whose intelligence matched his own.

College life meant that she had to go to pub night, and was well on her way to become a chronic alcoholic in denial, often convincing Sam to come to dances and maintain her legal drug of choice. Sam rarely drinks, because his father died of alcohol-related causes.

When he tried to break off the relationship, Sue tried to convince him that they would surely get married. So when she asked for money for a wedding dress, he gave it to her. When she suggested they get engagement rings, again Sam obliged.

However, Mrs. Jones was canny, and figured Sue was up to no good. "Nobody for my Sammy unless she is honest and trustworthy. Her drinking like a fish rings a bell." Sammy thought he was in love, until Mrs. Jones asked Sue if she had picked out a wedding dress.

"Well, I'd put a down-payment with the money your son gave me," Sue replied. "But, no worries. It'll be worth it, Mrs. Jones."

Then Sue went out with Sam to pub night at the college. At some point during the night, she got him drunk. The next morning, Mrs. Jones got a call from Sam. "Mom, Sue's gone. So's our engagement rings."

In this imaginary world, Sue has the narcissistic personality to work her charms on a neurotic such as Sam and also his mother. Yet the clues were hidden in plain sight: the first clue is drug addiction. A disturbed character like Sue may be highly intelligent, but likes to engage in risky behaviour. For Sue, that consisted of drinking since age 12. After a string of boyfriends, she managed to avoid pregnancy via safe sex.

Each and every ex-boyfriends of Sue, if asked nicely, would admit Sue was a high-maintenance woman. If they were to offer any advice, then it would be "Don't give her money. Buy her things."

So, this is where the story ends: Sam is going to look after his mother until the day she dies, with Gerald and his lovely wife, Louise, occasionally visiting to provide updates on Louise's pregnancy and other chitchat.

Overal, their narcissistic personalities are under control, barely. However, Mrs. Jones put it simply: "Blood is thicker than water. My late husband worked hard and invested wisely. His legacy has been passed on, and when it's time for me to go, my sons will be well looked after, especially my Sammy."

In truth, the Jones' family is wealthy. Even though each of them have some sense of entitlement, they earned it in their own way. Gerald got a wife while Sammy lost at love only to decide his one true filial love is his mother.

In stark contrast, Sue lives in moral poverty. Although Sammy's potential wealth was apparent, it made him an easy target for Sue. When she realized that both Sam and his mother were pressuring her to get married and settled down, she showed her true colors and left before following through.

Epilogue

After declaring the money for a wedding dress and the engagement rings as theft to the police, Mrs. Jones and her son Sam, have yet to recover the money, let alone the engagement rings. Though it is possible that the rings may be recovered one day due to the engraving on both rings: one says "To Sue with love and respect" and the other, "To Sam with honor and trust."

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