Noblesse Oblige

14670885_10154088530547683_644093784338662253_nBeing rich in a place that’s not uniformly rich is sort of like being rich in a large extended family: you’re made aware on a fairly regular basis of how fortunate you’ve been. Does this mean you have to give your wealth away? Divvy it up? Of course not. But it does mean that (a) you’re far more likely to have a realistic assessment of how different classes live; (b) you’re far more likely to be swayed by the notion that “to whom much is given, much is required”; and (c) you’re far less likely to get caught up in the delusions of the global upper class.

By contrast, when rich people start living in rich-people neighborhoods, vacationing in rich-people resorts, shopping in rich-people malls, and sending their kids to rich-people private schools, all of this much-needed perspective goes out the window. For instance, I had a student whose family owns a helicopter and four houses tell me, in all seriousness, that her family was middle class. None of the millionaires and billionaires who built Canada would have ever said anything this stupid.

Paul Martin, a billionaire who was for a time prime minister of Canada, walked around my neighborhood without bodyguards when I was a kid, and he was a local elected official. He knew what was going on at every level of society. Used to come to my hockey games and talk to the dads in the stands. He would find the repulsive arguments of our cloistered One Percent thoroughly unconvincing. His public service was based on the much maligned “noblesse oblige” model. We could do much worse. Indeed, we have. The ethics of the 21st-century rich were inadvertently summarized by Drake in Nothing Was the Same (2013): “I’mma worry ’bout me, give a fuck about you!”

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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