NY Times Explains Downside of Inciting Envy While Missing The Point

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I’m not sure what I’m expecting from the New York Times nowadays. When a newspaper asks whether they should point out lying politicians you probably shouldn’t really be surprised by anything after that. Some of the writing from the Times makes me wonder if the newsprint ink they’re using is actually liquified privilege. But let’s check out the latest…

In “The Downside of Inciting Envy” Arthur C. Brooks makes an argument against fanning the flames of wealth envy. You know, when people speak out against income inequality and the lack of upward mobility.

The 2006 World Values Survey, for example, found that Americans are only a third as likely as British or French people to feel strongly that “hard work doesn’t generally bring success; it’s more a matter of luck and connections.”

I read this as “Americans are, in fact, dumber than the British and French.”

This faith that success flows from effort has built America’s reputation as a remarkably unenvious society.

Read: Americans are incredibly delusional. But it gets better.

Does it matter? It does indeed, when it comes to our pursuit of happiness.

Unsurprisingly, psychologists have found that envy pushes down life satisfaction and depresses well-being. Envy is positively correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility it breeds may actually make us sick.

It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the Great Recession, such a shift may well be underway, given the increasing anxiety about income inequality and rising sympathy for income redistribution. According to data from the General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who feel strongly that “government ought to reduce the income differences between the rich and the poor” is at its highest since the 1970s. In January, 43 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center that government should do “a lot” to “reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else.”

Shorter NY Times Opinion Guy: We need to quit this whole fight for income equality because it’s making us unhappy and that’s bad for America.

I’m assuming that the author’s intentions aren’t malicious. He couldn’t possibly be making an argument that those who have been speaking out and publicizing the wealth gap and the complete middle finger up mentality of some of the wealthiest in our society are somehow hurting America.

But even if that wasn’t his goal, this seems to be the thought process of a few too many people. Ever since the rise of Occupy Wall Street the label “whiners” and “jealous” seems to be a go-to for many critiques of activists and politicians who speak up. The unspoken message of this piece seems to be in order for America to not only survive but thrive is that we have to stop this negative thinking. Or what I like to call it…

Telling the truth.

If we’re to be honest with ourselves “America” the brand is one built on lies. In the declaration of independence it says “All men are created equal” while at that very moment a Black man like me would probably be someone’s property. God forbid you had a vagina then you’d be on the second class citizen list as well. And as I was reminded on Twitter, if you were White but poor, welp. Sucks to be you. But people quote this as if it was anything more than lip service to the majority of society.

America’s PR is amazing isn’t it? A nation made up of immigrants (insert massive amounts of side-eye at the erasure of my ancestors in this narrative) with all the religious freedoms (now add laughter to the side-eye) and the knowledge that anyone can succeed. We point to folks like Oprah or Jay Z and say “See! Anything can happen!” Could you imagine a medication where 1 in a million (1) people who took said medication would be cured? Could it be called successful? Would this be the most exceptional medication in the world? But this what we teach and preach and to question it is to be an enemy of liberty. If you want to be happy just lie to yourself. Politicians pushing the “anyone can make it” narrative without pointing out that for many “making it” is out of their hands no matter how hard they work are being disingenuous at best.

If lying to ourselves is solution, then consider me part of the problem.

1. Actually the statistics on the odds of being a billionaire (Jay Z is on his way) it’s 1 in 785,166. I add this footnote in order not to set someone on fire for saying “Well, Actually…”

About the Author

Elon James White
Elon James White is a writer, satirist radio host and founder and CEO of This Week in Blackness. White has been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, Slate, RH Reality Check, Al Jazeera, Buzzfeed and more. White hosts the award winning & critically acclaimed TWiB! Prime on TWIB.FM Monday - Thursday at 6:30pm ET/3:30pm PT.

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