Mind Matters — Super Sad True Love Story Time

Everywhere I turn, I see Super Sad True Love Story as our reality. Super Sad True Love Story is an apocalyptic novel written by Gary Shteyngart about how our country had become in essence a caste system of rich and poor: visible chasms created to mark high net worth individuals from the lowly peons of poverty. The minority wealthy kept them at bay.

The novel, long before Occupy Wall Street occurred, harbingered its coming. While the poor were walled off in an occupy zone of tents, the affluent could walk down the street while something akin to telephone poles tabulated their wealth, announcing to the world their status as high net worth individuals.

Standing in line to board flights to and from Greece recently was surreal. No longer fiction, now fact is the stark reality of labeling and treating people according to their “net worth:” the airline personnel board you accordingly. First class first, of course. Then, it’s all about what kind of credit card you have. Are you “Admiral” or “Platinum?” Are you a high net worth individual—or not? We stand like sheep waiting for the prod.

Ironically, chances are, if you can board a plane at all, you don’t consider yourself, in the realms of life, as among the poor. However, the airlines affluent animal call does prompt me to reflect how we, in the U.S., are becoming more marked as haves and have nots.

When CEO’s make four hundred times more money than their employees, that is out and out greed—criminal actually! Meanwhile, wages—not just the minimum wage—are stagnant and have been for years. The income gap—inequality in the U.S.—is rising.

The repercussions of this inequality is staggering. The American Psychological Association president, Barry S. Anton, Ph.D., recently addressed this, saying, “the divide between the wealthy and the poor has never been greater—and this inequality has significant negative implications for our society … . As income inequality increases, we also see decreases in physical health, life expectancy, social trust, economic growth, and social mobility.”

Here’s a compelling corollary to income inequality: as a person’s wealth increases, compassion and concern for others declines while entitlement and self-absorption rises. Researcher Paul Piff, Ph.D. found that the poor were “more likely to share their resources with strangers than are wealthier individuals.” And Barry Anton questions, “When privilege and self-interest trump basic human values, what does this reveal about our society?”

This is a question deserving our attention no matter our “net worth.”

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