They don’t care about you… Or about anyone.

A related set of studies published by Keltner and his colleagues last year looked at how social class influences feelings of compassion towards people who are suffering. In one study, they found that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis.

[In a second study, the] results … showed that participants on the lower end of the spectrum, with less income and education, were more likely to report feeling compassion while watching the video of the cancer patients. In addition, their heart rates slowed down while watching the cancer video—a response that is associated with paying greater attention to the feelings and motivations of others.

Given the growing income inequality in the United States, the relationship between wealth and compassion has important implications. Those who hold most of the power in this country, political and otherwise, tend to come from privileged backgrounds. If social class influences how much we care about others, then the most powerful among us may be the least likely to make decisions that help the needy and the poor. They may also be the most likely to engage in unethical behavior.

Compassion is in short supply among the Masters of the Universe class and their Tea Party / Republican thralls, the ones who believe that hierarchy is the natural order of the world and that one day, they too will get to lord it over the plebs.  It’s no wonder that, as a group, they think Paul Ryan is a Serious Thinker instead of a “zombie-eyed granny killer.”

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6 Responses to The Rich are Different: Part Two

  1. Memory Man says:

    Most of us believe in one or more forms of natural hierarchy, from the food chain to God giving Man dominance over “dumb animals”. Most of us also believe that Man can alter the course of nature to some extent, from artificial fires that our distant ancestors kept and nurtured, to artificial suns that our not-so-distant ancestors made to scare our enemies (all too well it appears). When it comes to The Rich vs. the rest of us, what I see is a group of people who are used to getting their way from people, and all too often make the mistake of confusing their ability to bring money to bear in dominance over people with bringing their minds to bear in dominance over nature.

    The thing is that the rich only care about stoking the furnaces of their egos. So when their often grandiose fiddling with nature produces negative consequences, they take no notice and allow the consequences to compound. Because they’re not accustomed to taking personal responsibility for anything of consequence, and tend to use “whipping boys” as scapegoats, when their grandiose attempts at dominating nature ultimately fail, they never see themselves as the root of the failure.

    People of more modest means are subject to harsh laws that are used mostly against the proletariat. If a prole burns down their house or blow something up in some far more modest attempt to control or harness nature, they go to prison. This artificial hierarchy that’s coded into rules or laws is vertical, just like in nature, but it’s not of nature. So while we might not realize it, the difference between how the rich and poor use their uniquely human abilities is under the control of the rich.

    I don’t see a long-standing philosophy of social organization amongst the poor, mainly because the poor have little to no control over how much power they get or keep. Common people live in fear of the rich and their laws. Fear leads to anger, so occasionally we see uprisings against the rich, with varying results.

    Most of us have spent our entire lives knowing nothing but a world with a burgeoning middle class. Naturally the middle class doesn’t want to lose the only way of life it knows. The problem is that many of us are panicking and inadvertently wasting what could be a very narrow window of opportunity to reclaim this way of life before the rich reach their goals of despotism and tyranny.

    Democracy still works fairly well. If want to use democracy to arrest the decline of the middle class, we must all rally to the cause. IMO if we fail in 2012, our only reasonable chance for recovery may well require more vicious means, such as armed combat. So decide quickly and carefully folks.

    • As a non rich person who thinks what you wrote is pure nonsense, will I conscripted into your war on the rich?

      • Phil Scarr says:

        Are you disputing the scientific research I cited or what Memory Man wrote? Just wondering… ‘Cause if you’re gonna dispute the science, you’ll need some evidence / data to back it up if you want to be taken seriously… 🙂

      • Raven says:

        It should be noted that, even among the rich, there are compassionate people who think ahead for the welfare of all (philanthropist literally means “one who loves humanity”) — just as even among the poor there are the uncompassionate.

        One’s state of wealth (thus self-image as having personal security from misfortune) is merely shown here to affect, statistically not just theoretically, how readily one pictures oneself in a sufferer’s place — the “There But For The Grace Of God Go I” insight.

        How this observation translates into a “war on the rich” should be left to a debate between you and that fellow who said it would be harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.*
        __________
        * “Eye of a needle”: low and narrow gate in a city wall, designed to prevent the swift entry of mounted raiding parties; camels could enter only by being unloaded of all their cargo and crawling in on their knees.

  2. Raven says:

    For shorthand use, the attitude under discussion is often labeled I’ve Got Mine, Jack.

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