The poor can hate the rich, but the rich can't hate the poor.

Submitted by mouse in lobby

The rich could choose to be less wealthy if they wanted. The poor are (overall, collectively) in a situation that they cannot escape. This means that being rich is a choice while living in poverty is an inescapable identity.

So when the poor "discriminate" against the rich, big deal. If you don't want people to hate you, give up your privilege. If you're a cop and you think you're the victim of hate, quit your job. Same thing.

But when the rich discriminate against the poor, their oppressees, they are making an attack on an identity like any other. This is why the poor can ethically hate the rich, but not the other way.




You must log in or register to comment.

RosaReborn wrote

Absolutely. The hate of the the wealthy (or any oppressive group) is clearly unjustifiable, but from a practical standpoint, it is really only through contempt that people can allow themselves 'ethically' to hurt others. I don't think the rich could exploit the lower classes to the degree they do without some underlying hatred of them.


indi wrote

I don't think "choice" is a good way to frame this.

As a thought experiment, imagine a person who - for whatever reasons you can come up with that make sense to you - can't stop being rich. Let's say, as a crazy example, they have been threatened that if they give away their money or try to live humbly and sustainably, someone will murder a million orphans. As a less crazy example, I suppose you could imagine someone who, even if they try to give away all their wealth and live in poverty, their rich relatives will step in and fuck it up by dumping more money on them and/or gentrifying wherever they try to live.

Would you say it would be ethically wrong for a poor person to hate that person just because they aren't choosing to be rich? I wouldn't.

Here's another way to look at it: Most rich people didn't actually choose to be rich; they had their wealth dumped on them by their rich parents. Even if they choose today to dump all their money and live in poverty... the fact is, they had all that wealth and privilege. I think it's still perfectly reasonable for a poor person to hate that (formerly) rich person even though the rich person chose to give away their wealth and live in poverty.

I think you're barking up the wrong tree by making "choice" an issue. The issue is privilege, and I don't think it matters whether they choose... or chose (at some point in the past)... to have that privilege or not. They have/had it. That's all that matters.

That means that a rich person can't "fix" things simply by choosing to give away their wealth and become a poor person. I mean, just think about it: if you were a poor person, and you knew someone who was filthy rich but then gave away everything they had... wouldn't you still kinda hate that person? And justifiably? Would them giving away all their wealth suddenly make them "just like you"? No. Bullshit. That's as ridiculous as saying that if a white person could get some kind of surgical treatment to change their genetics to that of a black person and then they went to live in a black community, that would make them no different from an actual black person.

You can't "give away" privilege like that. And you can't blame privilege on choice. The only ethical thing you can do with privilege is use it as ethically as possible. If it's justifiable to hate someone for having privilege - regardless of how they obtained it - then that's reason enough for a poor person to hate a rich person (and of course it doesn't justify a rich person hating a poor person).


celebratedrecluse wrote

that's an interesting point, it is basically impossible to give up the privileges of your upbringing, it inherently happens at a time when you have little practical agency, and it shapes the rest of our lives so dramatically that even in choosing to give up wealth afterwards, it's still going to shape your future and the whole context in which you live.


indi wrote

Yes, but I don't think it's just about privilege you were born with.

Consider someone who lived in abject poverty their entire life, then suddenly became ultra-rich. (Doesn't really matter how; you can assume they "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps" if you believe that myth, or you can just assume they won the lottery.) I think a poor person could consider them just as distasteful as a rich person who was born into their wealth.

And I don't think it matters whether they were trying to get rich, or it happened without their choice (like, say, they lived in poverty their whole life, but then some rich uncle they never knew they had bequeathed them a massive inheritance). They're rich; that's all that matters. They have that privilege. The poor person does not.

And I don't think that giving away all their wealth will "fix" anything. Once you have privilege... you have privilege. That's the beginning, middle, and end of it. I don't see that it matters if they weren't born with it - I don't think a person who lived in poverty most of their life, got ultra-rich, then gave it all away is any less a fraud than a person who was born ultra-rich and gave it all away. To person who never had the privilege of being rich, both had that privilege, and both used that privilege to choose to be poor - a choice that a person without that privilege could never have.

In summary:

  • Once you have the privilege of being rich - no matter whether you were born with it, you worked to get it, or it just fell into your lap - you are tainted by that privilege for life. You can't give it away.
  • You can give away your wealth - either by choice or because someone/something forced you to - but you can't give away the fact that you had the privilege of that wealth.
  • Sure, we can probably have more sympathy for the ultra-rich person who lost their wealth because it was stolen or taken away from them in some way than for one who lost it all because of foolishness or bad actions. And we can probably have more sympathy for both of them than for a rich person who just chooses to give it all away. But the bottom line is... they all had it - they all had the privilege, no matter how they got it, and no matter long or brief a time they had it, no matter how they lost it (if they did) - they all had the privilege. Someone who never had it can justifiably begrudge that.

The only thing you can do with privilege is use it. If you want to atone for privilege, the only thing you can do use that privilege ethically.