Being better

Sitting in a restaurant in an upmarket area of Joburg with a friend last week, she made the comment that we seemed to be surrounded by rich people, and that it was making her feel intimidated.  Why do we feel like having more money makes you a better person?

What does it mean to be better than someone else?  I think this is a meaningless concept.  Someone can be richer than you, more attractive than you, more intelligent, more charming, have more friends, be more virtuous, etc. but does any of these qualities equate to being somehow better, or more worthy?

The all-too-easy to forget fact is that while people like to believe they are responsible for their own success, this is seldom true.  Most of us are simply a product of the opportunities available to us as a result of the time and place we were born in.  I am healthy, intelligent, attractive, educated, well-read and well-travelled.  For this I have to thank my parents for the gift of their genetic material and for being white, educated and middle-class in a time and place when being so meant you could raise your children to the life I am currently living.

Although I didn’t squander my opportunities, I also cannot boast to have made the best possible use of them.  I did not rise from the middle classes to become a captain of industry, a ground-breaking scientific researcher, a famous novelist or artist.

The same can be said of most of the people we meet.  I wish someone would tell the Republicans, the Tories and the Conservatives that.

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