“Spoiled Rich Kids” and “Ghetto Gangsters” February 6, 2014

Trustfunders like myself are accused of a lot. We are accused of being ‘spoiled’, whatever that is. Some of us take the route of a Paris Hilton, others of us follow the rather ostentatious simplicity of the so-called ‘trustafarian’. But the common moral weaknesses boil down to these:

1. The sin called ‘acedia’ or spiritual sloth. Since everything we do is in some sense a hobby, as a book years ago called “Robin Hood Was Right” put it, we tend to fall into that.

2. Regarding our wealth as an ‘unscalable wall’ as the Book of Proverbs puts it; we think we don’t need to concern ourselves with our reputations or our image in the community, or with the troubles that might otherwise happen to us. The wall does not protect us against health problems or relational problems, though it allows us to buy solutions. First generation wealth, which is the vast majority of wealth in this country, can incline toward this vice as well.

3. A lack of empathy, and a judgmental attitude, toward people who must work. Or a complete misunderstanding of their circumstances; the ‘let them eat cake’ syndrome. The judgmental attitude is very much a moral issue. I am not sure whether all of the lack of empathy is a moral issue. Many people have never, for example, worked in a restaurant kitchen, and don’t understand the pressures that cooks and servers in a restaurant are under, so they don’t understand why restaurants do things the way they do. Is that a moral issue, or a mere lack of skill?

I have not mentioned such vices as a ‘sense of entitlement’ or even greed, because I think these vices to be widespread in other parts of society as well. If anything, trustfunders are probably less ‘greedy’ because we aren’t pressured to be. Greed is pretty universal. And one sees plenty of ‘sense of entitlement’ among those who have ‘worked hard’, or believe they have, and also among members of groups whose ancestors were discriminated against in the past and so they now believe they have special claims on society.

But let me compare our situation to that of an inner city young man growing up in a ghetto, without a stable father, without any image of what a good family life should be, with a culture that teaches him that violence is the answer to any sort of disrespect. By the grace of God, people from that kind of background can often acquire moral virtue, and in fact they are responsible to do so; but not all of them do. We would never dream, however, or I would hope we would not dream, of naming the status of growing up in a dysfunctional ghetto as morally wrong or problematic in and of itself. Similarly, being a trustfunder is likely to predispose me to the moral problems I have outlined above, but I will not accept guilt for the status of being a trustfunder. So pointing out that I am a ‘spoiled rich kid’ and that that is the cause of my transgressions is useless rhetoric that means nothing. It does not add to my sins in any way. Are they trying to give me an excuse? Or are they saying my status is problematic? Or are they of that envious sort that seems to be more interested in relieving the rich of their wealth than relieving the poor of their poverty? If anything is morally problematic, that sort of twisted priority is.

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