The past year has taught us many lessons, and one of them is discernment. Due to the openness social media has afforded all of us, we are now, more than ever, so conscious of the divide between the quality of life of those above, below, and with us on a socioeconomic level. We have seen millionaires preaching us to stay home and avoid going to “non-essential” businesses while they lounge in their mansions replete with pools, tennis courts, in-home theaters, bowling alleys, and assistants and “the help” to keep them company. We have been told to avoid gathering with our loved ones in groups of more than six while they gather with friends unmasked at Michelin-star restaurants waited on by masked servers. We were told to isolate ourselves, quit the gym, indulge in junk food as self-care when “the science” shows individuals at healthy weight within a certain age group are at no greater risk of the “illness” than the flu and that obesity is actually a comorbidity leading to greater hospitalization rates and subsequent deaths. We have been told to postpone weddings “until it is safe” yet they throw 600-guest birthday bashes (not including the staff). We have been encouraged to harp “tax the rich” yet they wear multi-thousand dresses at a $30,000 per ticket and $275,000 per table party and socialize with other millionaires who reap six-to-eight figure salaries per year. If there is anything we have learned, it is that they preach rules for thee but not for me. 

Three things: 

ONE. This phenomenon is not new. We have always been subject to such virtue signaling by the most visible members of the upper socioeconomic class. Rob Henderson’s work on “luxury beliefs” explains this in great detail. Basically, luxury beliefs are beliefs that confer great reward on the upper class members who preach these beliefs but are detrimental to lower class members who adopt them. Such beliefs include feminism, attributing success to luck instead of hard work, and polygamy. These beliefs when personified by people with means do not negatively affect them as much because they have the resources to insulate themselves against the consequences. The problem is when regular, non-upper class people start believing these things then realize it’s rich people sh*t they can’t afford. 

TWO. This phenomenon is rooted in human nature. The truth about high status (aka upper class) people is that they are very concerned with appearing high status. Because American capitalism contributed to an overall increase of quality of life for the general populace (we all rose together but unequally), luxury goods are now more accessible (see entry-level workers with Louis Vuitton bags). The upper class figured out a more expensive yet inconspicuous way to promote their status: luxury beliefs. These beliefs are supposed to make one feel “woke,” progressive, “educated,” worthy. Because these luxury beliefs do not align with the reality of most regular people and are quite resource-intensive and risky to adopt, they have become the perfect tool for status promotion via virtue signaling. 

“In the world of entertainment, academia, and politics, social capital is as important, if not more, than aptitude and skill.”

They don’t actually believe and follow the things they preach, they just signal them for social brownie points which are directly tied to their material wealth and income. In the world of entertainment, academia, and politics, social capital is as important, if not more, than aptitude and skill. Take the above examples of upper class members preaching certain restrictive messages to the general populace yet adopting a different set of “guidelines” for themselves. If they did contract the illness and suffer from it, they can afford top-notch care and more than likely recover due to their impeccable health regimen they still performed even though they preach body positivity and “healthy” at every size. Another example is female pop/rap stars preaching hyper-independence bordering on narcissistic behavior to women yet stay with their cheating spouses. And last, politicians preaching the dumbing down of American public school education and lowering the bar for “underrepresented” students yet they send their own children to expensive private schools with tutors and after-school enrichment. Again, rules for thee but not for me. 

THREE. Know which messages are meant for you to take.

It is true that people of different socioeconomic levels occupy different spaces and thus have different ways of seeing the world and have different ways of moving within these spaces. Put simply, when you are in a certain spot, you act a certain way. When you want different, you move different. Be honest with where you are currently at and where you want to go. 

What would most help me at this point in my life? Do I need to adopt a promiscuous and hedonistic lifestyle to be seen as “cool”? Do I need to get into massive school debt to pursue a major whose graduates are underemployed and saddled with student debt? Do I need to move into a high cost of living metropolitan city to “live my best life” but it means never saving for a rainy day? Do I need to be a “strong, independent” woman to “f*ck the patriarchy” because they have kept me down because of my sex even though statistical measures of incarceration, military deaths, and depression show men are being left behind and that college graduation rates and wages of women have outpaced that of men? Do I need to attribute all my success to luck or the lottery of race and gender when I know hard work works? Do I need to believe that single motherhood is preferable to a stable loving marriage? Do I need to destroy the things that make me a beautiful woman because beauty standards are rooted in the male gaze but I know I feel good when I look beautiful and when I embody my femininity? Do I need to “eat the rich” when I realize that living in this land ultimately puts me as one of the richest people in the world and that “the rich” won’t be eaten, they’ll just move elsewhere and take their jobs and capital with them and we’ll all be equally poor instead of unequally rich? Do I really need to broadcast my beliefs so others will think I’m a good person instead of, I don’t know, being an actual good person through deeds performed for others in real life?

Learn the skill of observation. Watch what people do, not what they say. The formula for the life you want has already been solved. You need only to emulate it.

May we do what is best for our outcomes.

This we manifest. 


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