Conversations with Omen XVIII

I was wondering, back when you lived your earthbound lives, did people still revere the rich and famous?

“An interesting question Thomas, I hope you will tolerate a qualified answer from me. In my first earthbound life I inhabited an agrarian village on the banks of the Nile River. Although we were all aware of the powers of the families in the High House, we had almost no contact with them whatsoever. I am fairly sure that had we seen them, or knew more about them, we would have held them in high esteem. In my life as a senator of the Roman people, I suppose I was one of those that were revered by some of the people. Although I did not seek that out specifically, I can recall enjoying the adoration.”

Well sure, who wouldn’t love being admired for almost no other reason than being wealthy and powerful?

“Indeed, but that is not to say that I did not have the occasional conflicting feelings about it. There actually were times that I shunned the attention that my colleagues so dearly relished. I remember in one such case I asked a fellow senator if it wasn’t the adoration and gifts that he was interested in, and not the governing of the people. He was suitably confounded by my query, and roundly ignored me afterwards.”

Okay, so you did have some moments of consciousness about your own status then. I’m not completely sure what’s got me thinking about this, but I am kind of bothered by people’s status being elevated simply because they have lots of money. Even in this country, where we’re all supposed to be born equal, we still worship the rich and famous like they are the monarchy. It’s ironic that my country was founded on the premise that there are no monarchs, and people are all the same, but we don’t actually act that way.

“My thinking is that this social condition goes very far back in your human history, Thomas. Possibly back to when people lived very primitive lives, in very small social groups. It seems possible that the individual who collected the greatest amount of useful things, or was able to get the most food, would have been revered amongst their peers. It could be that what your society currently does is related to something that far back in your history. It just evolved to become about less practical items, instead of the most food it was the most gold, or the largest property. Of course, your history is replete with stories of megalomaniacs and tyrants who demanded respect and admiration from the peoples they ruled. By the time western monarchies came about, that admiration was almost a given for them.”

I can see that being the case back in times where having more of anything was probably a good thing, but now, in modern times? It just seems like people would have eventually dropped the notion that other people are somehow better because of wealth or fame. I just wish more people would see that those who really deserve our respect are often the ones we overlook. It shouldn’t matter if you’re rich or not.

“If you are speaking of individuals, and not groups, then there indeed might be much to be admired there, both in the rich, the poor, and everything in between. It is when one has preconceived notions about a person, or group, based on a status, or classification. Your complaint is about the wealthy and famous being revered for nothing more than that status in itself, but does the reverse not occur as well? The poor and the underprivileged are also victims of generalizations, most often very negative ones. Those generalizations are applied to them with just as little factual reasoning as the adoration of the rich.”

Do we do this simply because it’s too hard to look at individuals on a case by case basis? Is it just social laziness that makes us generalize?

“Speaking of people by generalized grouping is, more often than not, a social convention used to put across an idea that the speaker wants you to share. Whether it is ‘the rich are fabulous’ or ‘the poor are lazy’ they are both sweeping generalizations that would immediately fall apart upon individual inspection. It is my belief that as soon as one hears a speaker using generalizations such as those, one should be instantly cautious about what ideas are being put forth.”

But, aren’t some generalizations essentially true? Like the old saying about stereotypes; that they became what they are for some reason.

“We can easily concoct generalizations about many things that would be essentially true Thomas. ‘Human beings need air, food and water to live’ would be essentially correct, yet of what value is it? That in itself is a good question to bear in mind when you hear generalizations being spoken like they are facts. What value is it bringing to the conversation? I believe it safe to say that it most likely brings value to the speaker’s argument, but as a false support system.”

I think you’re probably right about that Omen, I don’t think that a genuinely intelligent speaker would use many generalizations. I think they’d use specifics and actual data to support the point they want to make. But, back to what I was originally asking about, and keeping in mind you can’t reveal the future to me; will we ever get past worshipping the rich and famous?

Thomas, all of the cultures in your world are evolving, each in myriad different ways. Your own culture, or more specifically the economic system of that culture, is based in capitalism. That in itself is a wealth-centric economic system that disproportionately benefits a small number of people at the highest income and wealth level. That is not to say that others do not benefit as well, just not as much as those who own the means of production and sales. In other cultures in your world they have varying economic systems that are either close to what you have, or not terribly different. The few countries that do have greatly differing systems have traditionally been the enemies of your country.”

Yeah, why is that anyway? Why have the socialists and communists always been the enemy of capitalist nations?

“An excellent question Thomas, I do hope you will research an answer for it. I do believe that a vast majority of the citizens of capitalist nations have not done so. (Yes, I realize that was a generalization, but it is one I am willing to stand behind.) I do think that if you look into the answer for your question you will be a bit surprised at the possible answers to it.”

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