Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thinking About Rich Folks

I think there are some things to learn about the rich.  So much of the traffic on Facebook, Twitter, etc. paints them as vindictive people who work to keep the poor and middle class down.  In most cases, this isn't true.  Not that the end result of their actions, or in-actions, isn't the same whether intended or not.  It is.  But something became clear to me a long time ago when teaching a class at IBM called Technical Excellence. One of the books I assigned was Tom Watson Jr.'s Father, Son, and Company.

During World War II he tried joining the Army Air Corps.  He knew he'd have trouble passing the physical because of his eyes, though he'd been flying his own plane for seven years.  He got tested by a private doctor using a machine the military used and failed depth perception so he bought one of the machines and spent endless hours practicing until he could pass.  While one has to admire the determination, realize that most people with his depth perception issues couldn't compensate by buying their own test machine.  There are many similar examples, times when because of his family's wealth he was able to do things that most of us could never even think of doing.

My realization is this.  He had absolutely no concept of life without essentially unlimited money.  His father, who started out selling sewing machines from the back of a horse drawn wagon, knew.  But not Junior.

Maybe I'm being naive, but I believe the same is true for the current crop that was born into money: John Kerry, Mitt Romney, the Koch Brothers, and many senators and congresspersons, for example. Just as I, a Caucasian, cannot, no matter how hard I try, truly understand what life is like as a person of color, these people cannot understand what it's like to have to worry about paying bills, about buying food, about finding shelter, and so many of life's other daily challenges.  Some of them may think they know, but they don't, really. They have no reference point. They've never been there.

An architect friend once said that every student architect should spend a year or more working construction jobs to better understand the impact of implementing some of their design ideas.  Should the super rich spend a year or more working at a minimum wage job with none of their substantial resources available?

Interesting concept, but one  not likely ever to happen.  Too bad.

Enough musing for now.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!