I took this photo outside the Citibank on Eagle Rock Blvd.
Breaking this down, it is not the “few” that surprises me. A large basis of the occupy Wall Street movement is that there is 1% of the nation with significant power and resources. One percent is clearly very few, and thus this is not the part of the phrase that I wish to focus on. It is “Chosen” that catches my eye. Chosen implies that the 1% have that power for a reason: that a higher power chose them for this great responsibility. Similar to the days when a King had divine right, this implies that those who are in charge are the only ones capable of doing so: that people are chosen for power and wealth instead of earning it. What concerns me about this is that it subsequently implies that it is the way it is and it is not going to change.
Mills would argue that these “Chosen Few” are the power elite. That in the 5th epoch, as business and government become indistinguishable, there are the few who hold a great deal of power and the many who do not. He even argues that the wealth of the power elite reproduces itself through family money, status and lineage. I argue that he would support the notion that there are a “Chosen Few,” as he believes that wealth is passed down and you cannot get into the power elite simply through a bureaucratic crawl, i.e. birth chooses the rich, they don’t earn it. That said, he does not agree that this is the way it should be but rather the way it is. And based on this photo, I tend to agree. It appears that those with large amounts of money are largely those who inherited it. And that is not to say that they don’t work hard but rather that they are “chosen” by some random act of fate and genetics to be in the “few” from the start.
Nevertheless, there are two sides to the “Chosen Few” coin. If it truly is only the chosen few who have the vast amounts of money and power in the US, then there is nothing we can do about it. Some people will read that with despair, and see that no matter how hard they try they will not be able to get out of their situation. However, some people will read that with a bit of relief, that it isn’t their fault and therefore they don’t have to worry or feel badly about it anymore.
This reminds me of Mills argument as to why we believe the rich are happier. If we can believe the rich are happier then we know that we are not wrong to want money. But to accept that they are just as unhappy as the rest of us means accepting that staying in your position is as good/bad as having money. Believing that the few are chosen (and there is nothing we can do about it) or believing that the rich aren’t happier arrives at the same conclusion: that it isn’t worth wanting money/power because it isn’t going to happen and it isn’t going to make your life better.
This may seem dreary but I don’t mean it to. Rather I just wish to highlight the parallel between this photo and the idea that we believe the rich are happier. That just as we don’t want to believe there is a chosen few, we want to believe that having all the money in the world will make us happier people. Ultimately, it is all in how we choose to see the world and our position in it.
Questions to consider: Is there a difference between the happiness of the rich who inherited wealth and those who fought their way to the top? How do religious beliefs play into the mindset, personality and self-identity of the rich?