Rich People Just Care Less – NYTimes.com
Rich People Just Care LessBy DANIEL GOLEMAN “Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.”
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Of course there’s no denying Mr. Goleman’s argument. We’re animals and as such we create systems of hierarchy to organize ourselves. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Scott Forbes’ A Natural History of Families. It’ll give you a whole new perspective on relationships and society. Much of what we think is our personal experience is actually the course of nature.
“Parents are the architects of sibling strife and of conflict between parents and offspring. They make too many babies and then do not provide for all. They play favourites among their children and not only tolerate but foster rivalries. They prefer their offspring to be different, which only makes matters worse. Parents build amphitheatres to observe the contests, and some go so far as to deliberately place offspring gladiators in arenas of sibling warfare from which only one escapes alive. The parents watch from above while their progeny fight a short, bloody, and one-sided battle, and then turn thumbs down on the outcome.”
But I digress. The point is that those at the top don’t need to care. At least not in the same way as those in the middle or at the bottom. It’s a question of supply and demand. The maid must be nice or she could lose her job. It’s much less likely her employer needs to be nice as there’s an endless supply of people at the bottom end needing work. That’s where society must step in to level the playing field. The major problem being that those in power become part of the elite once they attain said power- the subsequent result is they engage in a type of protectionism that maintains their newly acquired position in the group. And so some are always more equal than others and unless some serious reorganization occurs we’ll just keep going in circles.