The One Percent

Money and being rich is a very interesting subject to me(wow I wrote that six years ago). Jamie Johnson is someone that is very interesting to me, almost like Anderson Cooper he was born into a very rich family but want to make their own mark in the world. I watched his documentary Born Rich a while back, and recently was able to catch The One Percent. Both films have the same theme, wealth; but the second one speaks more of responsibility. Are the rich supposed to give their money away? Why does only one percent of the population in the U.S. have all the wealth?

While all those subjects are something that can make a series of post, what I want to share is something very simple. After watching the whole movie about wealth and economic policy and very rich people being very arrogant …. the whole movie was made worth while by a Taxi driver. The guy said some things that I wanted to share with everyone that read this, mostly because it spoke to me in a very real way.

This is totally paraphrasing the guy’s word but the ultimate message is there. After Jamie lets him know that he is driving someone from the Johnson & Johnson family the word rich seems to trigger something in the Cabby’s head and he says simply…

I am rich because from my family I learned;

The following qualities are worth more than money and you cannot buy,

My Family taught me how to love people for who they are, not who I want them to be

Taught me how to get along with people,

Taught me to treat people how I want to be treated,

Treat each person for who they are and not to clump them together because we are all different in our own way.

The dude in a handfull of lines defined true personal wealth. I still hold the same feeling I did a while back, that some of the happiest people I have ever met or interacted with did not have a dime to their name… and yet so many, with so much are constantly so unhappy.

Classism

“Money can’t buy friends but it can get you a better class of enemy”
-Spike Milligan

Classism is defined in the wikipedia as:

Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated classes of people by the dominant class. It includes individual attitudes and behaviors; systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes. Classism is grounded in a hierarchy belief system that ranks people according to socioeconomic status (SES), family lineage, and other class related divisions.

Reading Señor Truman‘s post about “What Money Means.” lead me to Spungen’s post about being impressed with some hippies. I have not read Spungen much, but I get the sense that she is very discontent towards the things she feel she does not have. Will in the other hand on the same subject seems to be very happy with his situation. What makes them so different is not the money or social class, but their outlook on what opportunity means to them. I hope you have the time to read both post before continuing, but I will try to make sense of everything if you don’t.

When it comes to social class, I have been all over the spectrum. I have never really identified with one label, but I guess I end up being part of the middle class if you put things in an average equation. Out of my 4 grandparents, both of my grandfathers lost their fathers at a young age, and of them was actually left to fend for himself as an orphan. My grandmothers in the other hand both came from families that were pretty well off, one of them actually came from the upper class. One of my parents grew up around hard work and strict rules in more of a working class environment than the other. At times when I look back I see the behavior of one side of the family as a middle class family desperately wanting to be upper class. Funny thing is that nobody from that family had ever even come close to it in the past, and yet the one person that grew up around a lot of money was the one that wanted it or even social status the least.

My father climbed the corporate ladder and started to get to the middle upper class before we moved to the U.S. I attended elementary school around my neighborhood around kids that were from the lower and middle class. I went to high school at a private school down in with a mixture of people from different backgrounds, but everyone there was at least middle class. There were several people that were from the upper class in my classroom. I was lucky enough to see how all the different classes back in Colombia lived and I think it made me a better person. It taught me that in every class there are good and bad people and that class at times had nothing to do with how people behaved.

My wife’s microcosm was a lot smaller. She was in what she thought was a middle class neighborhood growing up, but I have to keep on reminding there that having a close community where only certain people can enter puts you a little above middle class. Even if the earning power was not what other people in the lower upper class had, she had access to play tennis whenever she wanted and could wonder the neighborhood without any fear. The funny thing about her experience is that even in that environment she encountered the good and bad people and again, it had little to do with the money and more with the person.

Spungen said:

That’s never what I hated about not having money, though. No, it’s the people you have to be around, and the lack of insulation from them.

Initially I disagreed with this statement completely, and not just because there are ways to get out of one social class into another but because in this country, you can truly change your life if you want to. Then the more I thought about it, there is a downward mobility when it comes to class, but not necessarily an upward mobility.

When my family and I arrived in the US our social status changed completely. After staying with family we took flight on our own and lived in a one bedroom apartment for almost 4 years. We went from being middle upper class to being lower class in a brand new environment. It took hard work but after several years as a family we are back to the middle class. I am not sure if that was a product of being in that class before, or if the level of education and opportunity helped, but I believe that if I achieved it everyone else can. I might be completely wrong in that statement in the sense that I had a can do attitude and was not programmed to stay in the lower class by society itself.

Being around upper class people in the past made me very comfortable with them. My Dad worked for a period of time with people that were in the upper upper class in our city back in Colombia, and even thought there was always respect towards them it was never reverence. Reverence has always been displayed in my family towards elders, educators and clergy but not towards people that were simply in a higher class. Respect for someone you worked for was also never to be confused with servitude.

My concepts of poor and rich have a lot more to do with relationships than with money. I have seen it over and over in my life that money does not buy happiness, and sometimes the people consider poor because of money have a way richer life when it comes to happiness and good relationships. Education and open mindedness I value more than a huge bank account when I am choosing who I am around.

As kids we are limited by the decisions our parents make. If they chose to be in a neighborhood where outside influences are a constant factor in kids life’s it will affect them. Many kids from lower class families living in very dangerous neighborhoods end up getting out and not being affected by them. I think when you are young it is your parents responsibility to keep drama away from you. I never felt I had to be around people I did not want to growing up, and right now I have friends from every single social class imaginable.

I have a friend here in KC that is working his way up from having a modest living to actually making enough money to have his own home. I also have another friend that makes over six figures and has for most of his career but its struggling to keep his standard of living because of some poor choices in the past. Their social class means next to nothing to me, and it could partly be because I am in a the middle class and I can easily move from one to the other. I do not feel uncomfortable or out of place in either situation. I am not so sure if that will be the same for my friend in the upper class hanging out in a below middle class neighborhood or vice versa.

So the question that I post to everyone out there is, how does social class affect your relationships right now? Do you feel an upward mobility?

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