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One wonders the same thing why people also gravitate to read about the lifestyles of film stars and royalty; the more scandalous, the more intense the interest. It's about being starry-eyed curious on what is outside the norm that befalls most whose readings of those exposures therefore provides temporary relief, maybe even mirth, outside humdrum lives.|
That said, there is an underlying matter of some gravitas. Inequality. The poor and the old. They are affected most by the coronavirus.
And never has there been evidence today of a greater social failure in solving inequality than in the western system which by its very nature of leaving everyone to find his/her own level ends up marginalizing their majority needy until old tensions have emerged and become concentrated in the very streets that both rich and poor walk by one another, one metre apart these days.
So that as economies sunder, their middle-income groups get sucked into the morass as well, exposed not just to the virus but also financial debts hard to discharge in the uncertainty of business and consumer sentiments born of health fears.
One may go so far as to surmise that the western system attenuates the family unit links and thus removes an essential buffer to help an individual get by against the vagaries of luck and life until he/she gets a break to rebuild; like parents who expect their children to be independent and move out from their common nests, each year of separation increases the same de-rooting process seen in their societies no less.
Yet, one expects everything everywhere will one day reset to status quo in much the same way the destructive wave of the last global financial crisis had receded, even when its effects still remain silent in the background. This status quo will see the return of increased consumer spending, although at lesser levels which in turn will spark new industrial and services activities as people crave to get back to what they were doing before the outbreak disrupted their comfort-zone lifestyles.
Which comes back in general to the matter of gross social economic inequality and the lifestyles of billionaires. Could there be three ways of looking at inequality?
First, is inequality a perception of material difference only, that is, people perceive they are less than equal based on what they don't possess that the fewer others have - as opposed to the finer distinction of their simply wanting to be better off themselves?
Second, is inequality objectionable because of neglect by institutions which are supposed to show abiding interest in their welfare but appear to be more responsive to the rich until politically and economically the conclusion is derived that there is an invisible and preset status difference between rich and poor? and,
Thirdly, is inequality itself by whatever measure a socio-biological function, namely, the more one has to provide for, the less can be provided to each so that the critical minimum needed to improve a person from child upwards is not achieved that must be achieved to give the person a better headstart in life, thereby reducing the ability to thrive later, especially in societies which are agnostic on economic moralities?
This factor, compounded by the other inherent nature of many who are dispossessed until they only develop crutchy dependence on hand-outs with the result they fail to develop themselves throughout what could have been more self-productive working lives to be independent and free from the very lot they want to escape from.
And that is why the fascination with billionaire lifestyles - the how they have come up by dints of personal sacrifice and hardwork, lucky breaks at the right time and place, or even silver-spoon headstarts - mirror the wax and wane of fortune and misfortune itself. Because the lives of these few juxtapose with the jarring realities on the ground faced by most others of the same herd of humanity.
Their lives, sans of their excesses and inanities, can be taken as simple inspiration - "if that dumb looking guy can become a billionaire, why not me?"
Extending that then is the question "why not? get up and go find your oyster of pearl to prise".
But the crux of the matter here is really: "after i have made my billions, furthermore by depending on all of society to help me build my wealth - which i cannot spend in another ten generations - what can i do beyond my own modest means with all this wealth that can be turned around to help others achieve their dreams too?"
Alas, in too many cases, one will find the wealth has gone to their heads and, in their conspicious consumption, they have forgotten how to be personally moderate and conscious of what they could do for others that they have chosen not to do so - maybe because of the above three factors.
In the east, governments have realized this more. And therefore take care of the first factor especially - in order to help those who are down get up in life through better opportunities to harvest personal effort to improve themselves - with some public goods assistance such as through education and healthcare, loans and grants, job-and-family supports, and social-cohesion support.
Too many in the west get thrown under the bus by their system, unfortunately.