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Friday, August 31, 2018

From Fortunate To Entitled

I suspect many people with a personal history like mine have had fairly limited exposure to wealth. My parents had little formal education, a fact that helped steer their lives toward working class jobs. My early adult decisions to get an undergraduate degree in education and soon after pursue music as a career didn't aim me toward high remuneration or rich friends. My partner has been self-employed, a sole proprietor for most of our forty years. All this has added up to me having almost no close personal relationships with people outside the broad band of middle class until my seventh decade.

Now that my path has crossed more than a few times with people the tax code and demographers would categorize as upper class, I've begun to notice the way folks of significant means describe their circumstances. I try keeping my inner cynic at bay when someone says they feel "fortunate" to have so much. It helps when someone who calls themselves fortunate combines that good fortune with action, as in the case of a couple I know who use their wealth to support a stable specializing in therapeutic equestrian skills for people with disabilities.

Flip the coin. I'm guessing an unspoken social contract precludes anyone from describing themselves as "entitled" to wealth, unless, as someone once said of George Bush Sr. - "He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple." But even when the word isn't used, my own life has now put me within whiffing distance of people that exude a sense of entitlement. And, on the sad occasions when I've been exposed to entitled folks with disregard or disdain for less fortunate people, or even worse, resentment toward others of limited means, I often hear my mother's voice - "Patrick, keep your mouth shut." So far, so good.

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