I have seen numerous videos and posts on social media, touting the usual “Rich v Poor” differences. While such videos and articles, I have no doubt, are intended to motivate (and bait clicks, increase traffic and engagement etcetera) rather than denigrate, they, unfortunately, tend to, in my opinion, do the latter. They not only dehumanise, disparage, and vilify the less fortunate, but they also oversimplify and, to a large extent, show a disregard or misunderstanding of basic psychology, sociology, economics etc. Moreover, they don’t seem to fully grasp the concept of causality. Yes, there may exist differences between the rich and the poor, but it’s incredibly naïve to assume the differences are, in all cases, directly responsible for one’s fortune and not a result of them. Such simplification must not go unchallenged. So, in this short article, I try to challenge of few common “rich v poor” assertions.
The poor are lazy
Yes, generally speaking, success comes from hard work, but some people got rich without ever having to lift a finger. And, sadly, there are millions of people who work their butts off just to put food on the table. Such souls work tirelessly into late life, sometimes in menial jobs, until their very last breath, with very little acknowledgement. So, to paint all poor people with the ‘poor people are lazy’ brush as if their poorness is merely a result of laziness is inconsiderate if not downright wrong. Sure, motivate people by reminding them that if they want to succeed, they must work hard. But don’t imply that hard work will automatically make you rich.
Poor people use credit cards
Of course, they do. That is kind of the whole point of credit, to allow those who can’t afford to make big, one-off purchases and then pay for goods and services gradually (for a fee that goes to the rich, of course). Poor people don’t use credit because they ‘like credit’, just as rich people don’t need credit cards because, duh – they are rich. It’s not the use of credit cards that make people poor. It’s what you buy with it, and how much you pay for it. The focus should be on teaching people to use credit wisely (like some rich people do)
Poor people waste money buying things on sale
Of course, they do. It’s called being clever. And you know why rich people don’t need to wait for sales? Because they can afford the full the price!! The advice should be that people must not just buy products/services simply because they are on sale but only buy what they need, especially if what they need happen to be on sale!
Poor people watch a lot of television (also, supposedly a lot of sports and news).
Do you know who also watches television? A lot of rich people. To insinuate that people are poor because they spend most of their time binge-watching Game of Thrones, Westworld or the Kardashians is simply not true. Plenty of rich people (say, professional athletes, entertainers, etc.) do actually have the time to watch television and sports. It’s what one watches and how much, that we should be if at all concerned about.
The poor surround themselves with other people.
This one particularly grates my balls (thanks, Trevor Noah for the term) the most. How stupid is that assertion/simplification? Does anyone writing these articles or producing these videos know anything, I mean anything, about the real world? I couldn’t just start hanging out with Richard Branson or Jay Z or Warren Buffet because I look up to them. Even the supervisor in KFC does not like to hang with Tom, the guy who washes and scraps the insides of chickens. It’s called hierarchy or class or whatever name you want to call it. It’s real and, sadly, the way we humans organise ourselves. So, chastising people for hanging with other people of similar class, status or wealth, is stupid. Let’s not do that.
Poor people are ‘unhealthy’ (they exercise less, eat more fast foods, visit the doctors less for check-up etc).
Another exquisitely pathetic observation and assertion. Of course, that may be the case but hardly a cause of poorness. If anything, it’s a sign of it. A basketful at Wholefoods costs a fortune and so does medical care in countries like the USA. That simply means the rich are likely to afford, in money and time, a healthy lifestyle. And, on the other side, it surely doesn’t suggest or confirm that the KFC bucket is stealing poor people’s dreams and aspirations and holding them hostage.
The poor blame others for their misfortune
Isn’t that just human nature – that we take credit for the successes and blame others for failures? I think it is, and a very natural and logical thing. Not everyone is poor because they somehow ‘deserve it’. No. So, it is right that they should not shoulder the responsibility for their station in life, for such is a mere function of chance and luck. Yes, we should all assume a level of responsibility for our actions, but not the outcomes in our lives. The poor don’t ‘deserve’ to be poor. They should not be told off for blaming others for things outside of their control.
The poor have too many children
I understand this dichotomy not because I studied Geography some twenty or so years ago, but because it requires what some may call ‘common sense’. Poor people are not poor because they have many children. No. I think the poorness happens first before the many children. It’s important to understand causality on this matter and to fully grasp the variables that affect average family size, amongst which are: culture, religion, income (availability of family planning services etcetera). To just throw that statistic in there, in those ‘motivational’ ‘the difference between the poor and rich’ videos is sheer ignorance.
The poor shower less.
No, I didn’t make that one up. There is a video doing rounds on Facebook that list that in their top 15 difference between rich and poor (the video has over 3 million views!). How idiotic is such an assertion? The narrator even goes on to suggest that the ‘secret to success may be that shower first thing in the morning’. Of course, people should be encouraged to have good hygiene, to shower, brush teeth regularly, etc. But to suggest that that success comes from taking that extra shower here and there is simply silly. Has it ever occurred to people who publish such facts to dig deep, even just a little. For example, could it be that most ‘poor’ people work menial jobs while the rich (not all, but a lot) spend a lot of time meeting and mixing with others - activities that ultimately requires them to shower more, use perfumes, dress up and so forth.
There are longer, stupider, lists of these so called ‘differences’ that are touted as examples, explanations, justifications even, of how rich people get richer and the poor get poorer. We should challenge these assertions, these simplifications, not only for their apparent absurdity but their abhorrent lack of depth and balance of understanding.
If you liked and enjoyed my challenge(s), you may also like my book: Challenge and Improve, which playfully challenges popular quotes and put forward alternative advice and ways of dealing with life’s many challenges.