I have nothing against rich people. Hell, I’m hoping to become rich too. And if you ask around, some people would place me in…would place me in the “not poor” category, let’s leave it at that. But that being said, I want to point out that there are some seriously annoying rich people in this country. Not because they have money, but because they like to say the following crap. If you’re one of them, please stop it:
Actually, the city lights are off. That’s the glint of money.
1. If You’re Not Rich, It’s Your Own Fault
Ah, the meritocracy argument. The belief that effort always correlates to success.
This belief conveniently ignores context. See, certain professions pay better at different times and places. If this were the 1940s, for example, my pay as a writer would kick seven shades of faeces out of a movie director. And if we were in the Middle Ages, we’d probably point at doctors and say “That’s what happens when you don’t study hard“.
Now, let’s look at 21st century Singapore: No matter how much effort a mechanic, cleaner, or childcare teacher puts in, that person will not earn more than an investment banker.
That isn’t necessarily because investment bankers work harder, or somehow contribute more to society (in fact, the closer to manual labour a job is, the more likely it is to directly benefit society). It’s just that the current economy makes banking a more profitable trade.
If we can save the company $5 million, we might get an extra sandwich at lunch.
The investment bankers, like the app developers who work five hours a week, happened to be in the right place at the right time. They’re rich partly due to circumstance, and not because they’re inherently superior beings launched from Krypton.
I’m not suggesting they didn’t do any work to get there. Or that they don’t have talent. I’m just saying they need to acknowledge it’s not just will, but also circumstance (including educational opportunities) that gave them their success. And maybe following us on Facebook, because we talk about career upgrading all the time.
And that sometimes, people can’t succeed because they’re in the wrong place or time. Not because they don’t try as hard.
2. Mocking the Amount of Money Involved in Scandals
When a scandal hits the front page, there’s a lot of public indignation. Maybe someone seriously overpaid for bicycles, or the director of a charity fund decides “Hey, you know what would help impoverished kidney patients? A golden tap in my office.”
When that happens, we’re all shaken. It ruins our trust in charities, government bodies, etc. But then a small percentage of our population (typically the rich) will say something stupid. Stuff like:
“Come on, $X dollars only? That sort of money is nothing! Why are you people getting worked up over what is, to me, a tiny amount?”
It gets even worse when backed by arguments like:
- $2,000+ is an okay price for a bicycle. I mean, who can’t afford to pay that money for a bit of convenience?
- Compared to how much swindler X made for charity / the government / a company, the money he took is no big deal
Those arguments are (1) a slap in the face, and (2) missing the point.
A few thousand, or hundred thousand, is not a small amount of money. It might seem that way, if you have a District 9 condo worth a Saudi Prince’s harem.
But for many Singaporeans, an amount like $57,000 could pay their HDB loan for years. When rich people roll their eyes at the “trivial” amounts, it’s no less than a wealthy, fat tourist waving a a drumstick at hungry villagers. We’re happy you’re rich and all, but you don’t have to act like a contemptuous dic…person.
Second, we’re not outraged at the amount of money involved. We get that, when someone commits a commercial crime, it isn’t so he can buy a $2 Slurpee. We’re outraged at the betrayal of trust.
It’s not about whether $10,000 or $10 was wrongfully taken. The point is that it was wrongfully taken. If your 10 year old son steals $20 out your wallet, how would you feel? Betrayed and alarmed? Or would you laugh and say “Hell, it’s just $20?”
That’s what we’re pissed about. And that’s why rich people need to lay off the “He may have stolen $X, but he made $Y” argument. It misses the point.
3. Dispensing Advice That Only Other Rich People Can Use
Rich people who were born poor will never do this. But Singapore is home to the occasional heir, who never had to earn his money. And when that person gives advice, I cringe.
Mostly, the advice sounds like this:
Poor Man: I don’t even have a bowl of Yong Tau Foo, I’m starving man.
Rich Brat: Then why don’t you drink some Bird’s Nest? It’s very filling.
Other examples are:
- Suggesting your relieve stress by taking a one month holiday, and not understanding why you can’t do this
- Wondering why you won’t go on an all salmon diet and sign up for a $3,000 Yoga class, when it’s for your own health
- Asking why you don’t just “take a cab there”. Every. Damn. Time.
- Suggesting you cure your poverty by investing in property or gold. Because he thinks someone who makes $1,200 a month is in a position to do this.
Look, if you inherited money, congratulations. We’re all happy for you. But if you’re going to walk around dispensing advice, may I suggest you listen first?
Perhaps if you spent less time talking, and more time understanding the issues of the less fortunate, you’d be able to make a real contribution.
4. Saying That Money Trickles Down, Even if You Won’t Invest in Us
Do you invest in local start-ups? Contribute a lot to charity? If you do, you sort of have a right to use the “trickle down” argument.
But you need to realize some rich people are just here to stash money, or for the tax breaks. Or to buy our property. And that money doesn’t “trickle down”. It sloshes around in their bank account, never circulating into our society.
Saying it “trickles down” is like putting a bag of plasma in my hand, and telling me if I hold it long enough I’ll have a full blood transfusion.
So if you’re one of those rich people who walk around saying: “Singaporeans suck, they have no creativity, I’ll never invest here, blah blah blah“, then stop using terms like “trickle down” or “a rising tide lifts all boats”. You do nothing for us. We’re doing you the service, by giving you a low-tax residence that you contribute diddly squat to.
Now back in the ’70s and ’80s, people didn’t put their money here because we’re a tax haven. Or because it’s easy to import cheap labour here. They came here to set up businesses and invest in our workforce, because we had the best and brightest.
They believed in us. Hell, we believed in ourselves. And as a consequence, we got richer together. Now that’s a trickle down effect. If we’re lucky, we’ll recapture that spirit.
But in the meantime rich guy, unless you actually invest in us, lay off the trickle down arguments.
What are some other things you wish rich people would shut up about? Spill the details here!
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