This morning I read an article on NPR about China and its move toward banning luxurious words (but not luxurious things). Is this really any good? Toward the middle of the article I was struck by a quote:
“The luxury splurge is driven by people like 20-something Li He, who recently stood outside an upscale shopping mall with three friends, clutching a stiff brown Gucci shopping bag. He had just spent $450 on a leather belt. When asked if banning certain words will change his shopping habits, Li He scoffs.
‘Those who should be rich are rich, those who should be poor are poor,’ he says. ‘Those who work hard get rich, while those who don’t stay poor.’
When asked what he works hard at, he replies, ‘I work hard at having fun.’ The leather belt, he admits, was bought with his parents’ money.
This is the social Darwinist rallying cry. The Ayn Rand “anthem”. If you are competent and work hard, you are going to be successful–and these folks equate success with riches. Let’s examine this statement by young philosopher Li He with some real life examples.
“Those should be rich are rich”. Okay, so Li He is essentially saying here that there is some sort of deserving factor behind someone that has access to or complete control over large amounts of wealth and/or money. Here’s an example of one such person:
This young woman of distinction is rich. She “should be rich.” Why? Let’s explore the underpinnings of Ms. Hilton’s life to understand the richness of philosopher Li He’s argument. From one of Paris Hilton’s biographies:
“Socialite Paris Hilton was born on February 17, 1981 in New York City into the Hilton family and, along with her three younger siblings, is heir-apparent to the vast Hilton hotel and real estate dynasty. Her childhood was spent in palatial dwellings in the priciest neighborhoods on both coasts and featured a brief flirtation with the educational system, including high schooling at the ultra-exclusive Dwight School, from which she dropped out and ultimately earned her high school GED.”
To earn some more clarification of Mr. He’s point, let’s use another example of a young woman born rich so that we may understand why they are so deserving.
“…Middleton is the elder daughter of self-made millionaire Michael Middleton (born 1949), who was an airline officer at the time of her birth, and his wife, the former Carole Goldsmith….Middleton was raised in Bucklebury, Berkshire, in the south of England. She went to St Andrew’s School, Pangbourne until she was 13 and then attended the public school Marlborough College (the same school William’s cousin Princess Eugenie of York attends), where she passed eleven GCSEs and three A-level exams. Like the Prince, Middleton was a student at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. She graduated in 2005 with a 2:1 (Upper Second-Class) MA (Hons) degree in History of Art.”
Based on this example, we can eliminate education as a factor for determining if someone should be rich. With Li He’s reasoning, then, being born rich is a good enough deserving factor–no matter what they do after being born. There is a natural order here, according to Li He. Natural order including having rich parents that either worked for it, or perhaps not. Perhaps their blood lineage can be traced to someone that worked for it. The deserving factor of these riches transcends the lines of life and death; of generations. Therefore, these two young women should be rich because of a transcendent natural order, according to Li He. Let’s examine the flip side.
“Those who should be poor are poor”
This child dwells in a slum, likely with no running water as they appear to be bathing. Mr. Li He is telling us that he would be willing to stride up to this child with his $450 Gucci belt, level eyes with this child, and tell him “he deserves it” and “this is how he should be”. He would then dust off his expensive pants that could pay for this child’s and his siblings’ education up until college, and stride away. Let’s move to another section of Li He’s philosophy toward wealth. As you can see I am starting to see this worldview of Li He’s breakdown. But let’s give him more chances. Onward.
“Those who work hard get rich,” is a contradiction of an earlier statement. It probably finds its foundations with rare examples such as Andrew Carnegie and other owners of the true American Dream that grew up starving and went on to be fabulously wealthy capitalists. Based on two real-world examples, however, we find that being rich doesn’t necessarily equate to how hard one works. Most rich people don’t exactly have the same underpinnings as Andrew Carnegie. One might be rich at their first breath into this world! Therefore we run into issues here. Still further, see this example:
This man is a worker in the tomato fields of Imokalee, Florida. If he is characteristic of the over 400 men and women in the same area involved in the US v. Flores case in 1997, he worked around 10-12 hour days, making less than $20 a week, supervised by armed guards. I think it’s safe to say that he worked pretty hard. He could easily be defined as poor. This is a contradiction.
“…while those who don’t [work hard] stay poor,”
This is based on the assumption that everyone stays poor unless they work hard to get rich. This leaves little to no room for anything defined in the middle, but let’s ignore that for a minute. Referring to the last example of a farm worker, this causes issues. That farm worker works really hard, yet he still stays poor. Another contradiction of the second half of that argument, with the same example.
Therefore, what are the true underpinnings of Li He’s attitude and the attitude of so many human beings in this world? The bottom line is that they believe that they deserve to be rich either because of their born circumstances or the work that they have done and that others are not because of a natural order that leaves them in the deserving category. Some folks in certain parts of the world would call it Karma. In the United States, it’s usually “social Darwinism” or “survival of the fittest”. It’s an attitude that people with too much use in order to dull the sense that they may not deserve it, that maybe no one deserves it. That maybe it’s the luck of the draw, or maybe it is a test for people on both sides–to tolerate being dealt with less and a test to work away from being intoxicated with having more. This dangerous thought would create a moral imperative. It would create a conscientious feeling that maybe the only way to bring true justice to fellow man is to be generous and merciful–and that one’s money and how one spends it is 100% included in this imperative. This may mean more than getting rich by oppressive institutions and donating the excess later on to alleviate issues of another oppressive institution. This means, in its ideal quelling of the moral imperative, to withdraw or reduce reliance on oppressive institutions that create these undeserved or undersigned class distinctions in the first place.
No, In fact, I am not a socialist. I am actually a follower of Christ.