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Is This What Money Does #MondayMusings

Some time last year, a wealthy man in southern India, rammed his expensive vehicle into a security guard, then thrashed him mercilessly for taking time to open the gate. Sadly, the guard died despite several surgeries. I wonder if that cruel man will get the punishment he deserves.

In India,  a study by conducted by National Law University students with the help of the Law Commission found that 75% of  death row convicts are poor and come from dalit or tribal backgrounds.  Crimes are commited equally by the rich and the poor, but it is often the poor who get harsher punishments than the rich. How is the taxi driver who rapes a woman any worse than a rich landlord who rapes the worker in his fields? But the taxi driver is caught and punished and the farm worker most often doesn’t dare report the crime. The poor can’t afford legal aid and must depend on over-worked public defendants. Even worse, in some countries, they don’t have the money to pay corrupt officials and lawmakers.

It seems too that the rich seem to adopt the moral high ground with criminals who are poor, saying ‘We must teach them a lesson’. Do they use the same yardstick when it comes to their own children? Apparently not, from all the bribes that they are willing to pay to let them get away with a light punishment.

In Bandra, one of the posher suburbs of Mumbai, I have seen how rich kids go around with a sense of entitlement – driving expensive cars at speeds which on impact will surely kill. What’s more is that they’re often driving drunk! They have no fear of the law, sure that their parents will bail them out if they kill someone. They have the example of the actor, Salman Khan, also from Bandra, who has yet to serve his complete sentence for a drunk driving accident in which one person was killed and a couple badly injured.

Those of us who are priviledged think nothing of spending a huge sum of money on one meal in a restaurant, but will think twice before increasing the salary of our maid. The maid’s  monthly salary is often less than what we spend in an hour and yet we seem to grudge them their due. Why do we have different standards for the poor? I’ve often heard people remarking that slum-dwellers ‘waste’ their money on televisions and refrigerators but won’t spend on their children’s education? While this is not strictly true, who are we to say what they should spend on? Do we realize that television is often their only source of information, since many can’t read and that a refrigerator is a necessity especially in the conditions they live in.

Is this what money does?

Does money make us mean? Does money make us insensitive to the feelings and needs of others? Does it give us a sense of entitlement? Does having  a lot of money make us feel we’re above the law?


I read an interesting article in the New York Magazine talking of the money and empathy gap. The article talks about studies by the psychologist Paul Piff and others on how wealth can affect our interpersonal relationships. The study included observing the behaviour of people driving expensive cars and those driving less expensive ones, rigged games of monopoly, etc. What came out of the study didn’t speak very well in favour of having wealth.

In this somewhat controversial study Paul Piff writes: “specifically, I have been finding that increased wealth and status in society lead to increased self-focus and, in turn, decreased compassion, altruism, and ethical behavior….

It makes you more attuned to your own interests, your own desires, your own welfare….

It isolates you in certain ways from other people psychologically and materially. You prioritise your own needs and your own goals and become less attuned to those around you.”   (More about the study and its finding in this TED talk)

Perhaps this is why Semantic religions warned against the evils of amassing wealth and encouraged the faithful to share their wealth with the poor. Jews and Christians are encouraged to tithe and Muslims to give zakat. Sikhism encourages followers to give the poor food and work and this can be seen in the many langars around the world that feed millions. In Hinduism, the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, while enouraging people to amass wealth to take care of themselves and their families also encourages charity and good works. The downside of this religious encouragement is that  charity sometimes becomes a way of insuring a place in heaven. We begin to think we can buy a seat there too!

Let me state that I have nothing against wealth.  But we must combine our wealth with sensitivity and responsibility. For this we need constant self-awareness.

Do you think that money makes us mean, insensitive and entitled?


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  1. Tamuria Tamuria March 3, 2016

    Thought provoking article! I don’t think money makes us mean – that’s a character trait that crosses all lines – but it does enable people to get away with more, which is a huge injustice.

  2. Haralee Haralee March 2, 2016

    It is an interesting subject Corinne for sure. I know some low income people that are mean and bitter for not having more money. I think meanness crosses all gender and income brackets. Rich teenagers are horrible, but poor teenagers can be just as bad and dangerous in different ways.

  3. anks anks March 2, 2016

    It is not the wealth but the feeling of privilege that makes people fearless of the law and lose compassion for those around the. Sadly, the feeling of privilege comes with having lot of wealth because in our society (and country), money can get lots done.

  4. Lata Lata March 2, 2016

    Corinne, some 20 years ago, I spent a great deal of time wondering why a couple of my more monied friends were less than generous in spirit. Then, one day, the insight flashed – the more you have, the more insecure you are because you have a lot more to lose. It’s one reason why several studies have found that the economically challenged are happier than the well-to-do. They have nothing to lose materially and ergo, learn to appreciate simple things like a hearty meal. That worldview and appreciation also accounts for why the poor are more ready to extend a helping hand than the rich. The latter fear they are being taken advantage of and so, erect barriers to wall themselves off. That being the case, how can they be happy?

  5. BellyBytes BellyBytes March 1, 2016

    Money does make you mean. There are enough Scrooges out there in the world. And you’re right about a sense of entitlement and two different sets of laws. But that’s the way of the world which is why everyone wants to be a rich man ( if I were a rich man …….from Fiddler on the Roof)

  6. Kala Ravi Kala Ravi March 1, 2016

    Hmm….I am reflecting on all you have said. I have observed that richer people have tighter wallets, they fear to expend money on trivial agendas like paying the maid wages, while have no hassles spending much more on mindless splurges on self. On the other hand persons with smaller means are more large-hearted. Very strange but true! Probably you get meaner as you get richer. Also one’s upbringing does influence his actions. But atleast the law should be the same for persons irrespective of rich or poor. Great post Corinne!

  7. Elizabeth Elizabeth March 1, 2016

    Greed and Power are truly what brings down the best of humanity. There is never enough money, those with it will always want more and man will go to great length and sacrifice many morals to keep their high standing and comfortable lifestyle. I read The Good Earth when I was a junior in high school, and it has never been far from my mind. No matter what year, no matter the religion or culture behind it, you find stories of greed corrupting good people. A great example in modern times is the way Christians in the US justify their wealth (and not so much having money, but of not giving most of it away as Jesus would have wanted), called the Propserity Theology which basically means that they are good Christians so God is rewarding them w/money. Lets forget about the millions starving and w/out basic needs being met! This is a subject that often gets me passionate and angry. I come from a lower middle class background, living paycheck to paycheck but having what I need and never going hungry. I’m lucky, and I know it, and I hope that if I ever become wealthy I will share that wealth reasonably and will not succumb to greed.

  8. Anna Palmer Anna Palmer February 29, 2016

    This is a topic I have spent a lot of time thinking about. It is particularly tough when Trump takes the podium and spews hatred feeling untouchable because of the post his privilege has offered. I grew up with money and have much more than average now. At my best I have shared in my bounty. I have given away loads of money, supported many local ventures etc etc. However on a personal level it has made me less than I might have been. I think. I never developed a work ethic and I have an hourly battle against a sense of entitlement. I wish I could say I only feel gratitude but that would not be honest.

  9. Carol Cassara Carol Cassara February 29, 2016

    I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich and I’m always the same person. I do as much as I can to help and support others and those who do not have what we have. I see nothing wrong in making money and amassing wealth as long as it is done morally and ethically. Money is a tool, that’s all, and it’s how you use it that counts.

  10. Tammy Tammy February 29, 2016

    It all boils down to character, and I don’t belIeve money changes that. Just magnifies it.

  11. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg February 29, 2016

    How one handles money depends on their values and attitude towards life. Have seen both the rich who are mean and the rich who are humble and grounded.

  12. Mahathi Ramya Mahathi Ramya February 29, 2016

    I feel, upbringing makes a lot of difference. Even some rich people raise their kids with humbleness and sensitivity towards others pain, whereas some poor people raise their kids without them knowing any difficulty. So, I believe, past is past, but present lies in the hands of us(parents).

  13. Ashwini Ashwini February 29, 2016

    I don’t think money makes a person mean . A person having excess wealth can become MEAN…..But there are exceptions to this theory wrong.

  14. Anamika Agnihotri Anamika Agnihotri February 29, 2016

    I think it is one’s attitude and not actually money which causes one to become mean and insensitive. There are many examples of great philanthropists who served the society for the reason of their wealth. I have heard that when money does not come by the right means or wealth comes by the virtue of inheritance, there is a greater tendency of one losing the mind. And also as you rightly said self-awareness is the key factor.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted..5 crazy ways of raising a little readerMy Profile

  15. Esha Esha February 29, 2016

    It all depends on how money is being used. I like to think that money brings out the ‘real’ person before us, be it good, bad or ugly! Easy money, poor role-models and people getting away with murder creates a wrong precedence. This is being manifested not just in the metros but also in smaller towns where a section of the people feel the need to show off their flashy lifetsyles! Thankfully, we also have the other kind. There is so much good that is going on in this world which wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the people who have chosen to use money for social betterment. Two starkly contrasted pictures of the same coin!

  16. Parul Parul February 29, 2016

    Money is power in your hands and the way you want to use. Some people don’t use this power wisely. I should rather say – most rich people do not. And that results in all those crime and crime hiding mechanisms.
    A thought provoking post! Thank you for sharing the article and your words at the end are so true. We need to be self aware and use money responsibly and sensibly.
    Parul recently posted..Gratitude List – February 2016My Profile

  17. richa singh richa singh February 29, 2016

    I have a different view. I think money is not to be blamed but values are. Have seen many rich people who have invariably turned out to be much better as human beings than anyone I know. Value system is what needs correction. And connecting it with money, maybe they do not have enough time to give weight-age to value system..

  18. Suzy Suzy February 29, 2016

    I don’t think money makes people mean. I think it is an individual choice. Great wealth can either make someone a benefactor or arrogant and insensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
    Suzy recently posted..My Life According to The Beatles #MondayMusingsMy Profile

  19. Vasantha Vivek Vasantha Vivek February 29, 2016

    it purely depends on individuals. After all money is man made only. Money should not make one mean. if we have money, then we can do wonders in other’s life with it. Once you know the joy of giving then money will not be a big issue.

  20. Sunita Saldhana Sunita Saldhana February 29, 2016

    Money has the potential of bringing out the real us, be it good or evil. If we are basically good, money is a means to enhance that and do more good in the world. But for someone who is basically mean, money becomes a tool to use to show off his power. That is why there are also rich people who do a lot of good in the world.It is just that that does not get highlighted as the world wants only sensational news.

  21. nabanita nabanita February 29, 2016

    I think it depends on people, Corinne…Rich or people, doesn’t matter..It is intrinsic to them, this mean streak and it perhaps has nothing to do with money….Maybe I’d like to believe that…

  22. Ajay Ajay February 28, 2016

    Money makes people arrogant. Majority of them are. I can see the bitterness towards the have-nots on a daily basis.
    And hence the amazement, when one sees the act of kindness.
    Ajay recently posted..Devotion – A PrayerMy Profile

  23. Alok Singhal Alok Singhal February 28, 2016

    All is all up to us how we want to be in life…some people do get arrogant and go over the board when they get money, but few do chose not to!

  24. Dagny Dagny February 28, 2016

    I don’t think money makes people mean Corinne. Not if it has been earned fairly and the person has truly earned it. The arrogance and insensitivity you’ve mentioned in your post are typically the traits of those who do not deserve their money simply because they have not really ‘earned’ it. People who earn it, respect it, themselves and others.


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