Strategies to not Judge Rich People
March 6, 2019 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I judge (rich) people all the time that I don't know, will not interact with and it's affecting my experience living in a very nice area. How do you get around being annoyed unnecessarily by random people?

I judge people (strangers, but probably blends into my daily life) who I perceive as rich, privileged by the markers I consider (hip clothes, $1000 winter jackets, living in nice apartments, $1000 strollers with kids with ski stickers, typically white). I'm not white but relatively privileged and always been since birth, though was brought up to despise trappings of wealth . I live in a nice neighborhood in NYC, but these "rich" people make me annoyed (and there's lots of rich people in the city). I'd rather not be annoyed. Give me your strategies (realizing hypocrisy doesn't really work)?
posted by sandmanwv to Society & Culture (43 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Based on my understanding of the upper-middle class I bet they're in debt like whoa to keep up that lifestyle and avoid being judged by their friends/family. I further imagine they're frantic to keep the money coming in to make the payments and avoid the fall. I would not want that life. Not sure if that helps not judge them in specific, but, I judge the whole economic environment for that kind of mess, rather than the individuals, at that level.
posted by Alterscape at 8:21 AM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

maybe realize those wealthy trappings are a shell that covers a myriad of different things. sure maybe they are terrible, materialistic people, but more likely they are not. You don't know what goes on behind the 1000 strollers - maybe they have lost a previous child and want to give this one everything they can. Maybe they wear a 1000 dollar jacket but donate thousands more to charity. maybe they have taken in a person in need in that nice apartment.

Their wealth doesn't make them happy any more than you resenting them makes you happy.
posted by domino at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

This is a job for mindfulness. Observe your judgemental feelings and let them go. Focus on your breathing. If you can breathe without difficulty at this point, you can celebrate your good health and move on with your day.

Do a list of five things you are grateful for every day - your dog, the nice sunrise on the way to work, a hot breakfast sandwich, whatever floats your boat. Come back to this list often. If you focus on what truly brings you joy and stay present in the moment, Canada Goose jackets will slowly start being more quiet and transient annoyances in your life.

It’s not that cold in Vancouver guys
posted by crazycanuck at 8:39 AM on March 6, 2019 [36 favorites]

I do this too, unless I know the rich person is kind, unselfish, and generous. But that's on an individual level, which is not really what you're asking. There are certain neighborhoods I would never, ever live in, even if I could afford to, because I would just constantly despise the people I was surrounded by. Maybe moving away from these people would help?
posted by coffeeand at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Currently trending on Pocket, I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich.

But I think it's better to get to a stage where you understand that these people have all of the same worries, complexes, emotions as those of us on much lower incomes, it might just be on a different scale. Entitlement? Have an honest look at your own life to see what privilege(s) you are benefitting from and then channel your energies into making your life better and happier.
posted by humph at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2019 [13 favorites]

I know that it's not really a viable fix per se but you can always move out of your "very nice area" of NYC! I understand where you're coming from because capitalist American society is based so much on aiming for, then displaying conspicuous consumption. This occurs in both the poorest and richest neighborhoods FWIW. Even if we don't want to try to keep up with the Joneses, we still feel that tension. It's all relative to where you live: growing up, I felt very judgmental towards rich people. Where I live now, I am one of the "richer" people; when I move abroad, it'll be even more pronounced. But when I move back to the US and into a big city, I will hardly be able to afford rent on my modest salary that would be a dream-come-true for so many Americans.

I agree with the posters above who encourage reflection, compassion, and the like. There are great people of all classes, although studies have certainly shown that the people who have the least tend to give the most. However, just as not every "rich" person is bad, not every "poor" person is good; it's just so easy to try to oversimplify things when we're hurting. As a public school teacher with students from very wealthy and very poor backgrounds, I can say that everyone has problems regardless of class. Granted, those with more resources have much bigger opportunities but, as people have said, it doesn't guarantee happiness or true well-being.

I'd work on accepting this status quo as your reality, complete with the cognitive dissonance. (We all have this!) And then I'd look into connecting with more people and volunteering with folks of all backgrounds. I believe empathy grows when we see people as complex individuals and developing those relationships will help you see the bigger picture of people's lives.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:48 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Who has money and who doesn't is pretty arbitrary. You have to divorce your sense of how good/smart/whatever a person is from how much money they have. The two things aren't correlated.

Are you pissed off when you see these people because you're jealous? Society rewards money beyond all reason, and it's obnoxious and of course it'll make you feel jealous and insecure. But you know, money is just a human construct. It's fake. Buy into the system enough to have some quality of life, and ditch the rest as misguided irrelevance.

Or are you pissed off when you see these people because they're acting irritating? There is a certain affluent subculture that is annoying as shit. And super destructive (to the world), to boot. In that case, just avoid people in that subculture as much as you can, same as you avoid immersing yourself in other annoying and destructive subcultures. Just like you're not going to go live on some other weird patriarchal fundamentalist cult compound, you don't have to live in AwfulRichPeopleVille. Also if that's what's going on, I wouldn't bother with a ton of soul-searching. You don't have to be a saint, you can find certain subcultures are an anathema to you and just hate them in peace.
posted by rue72 at 8:48 AM on March 6, 2019

I'd rather not be annoyed. Give me your strategies (realizing hypocrisy doesn't really work)?

My strategy these days is asking myself WWMRD? What Would Mr. Rogers Do? Would he judge people by their markers, or would he accept people for who they are and avoid being judgmental. This is similar to @crazycanuck's suggestion of mindfulness, but I find it helps me to be very specific about the thoughts I have and ask myself "if I expressed these feelings to Mr. Rogers, what would he say/think about them?" And I think he'd say you can't absolutely judge people by their clothes or strollers and that those people are not to be hated.
posted by jzb at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2019 [18 favorites]

I'm not white but relatively privileged and always been since birth....I live in a nice neighborhood in NYC

This means that you are obscenely rich vis-a-vis the substantial majority of the world population. Consider carefully the extent to which you could survive judgment against your own scale as applied by, say, one of the Doe Fund people cleaning your streets. I'm one of Mefi's Fiery Leftists (tm) and I have plenty of opprobrium for the upper classes, but I think it's really important to keep that clear of a more personal day-to-day resentment of people whom I don't know and whose conduct I am not in a position to judge.
posted by praemunire at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2019 [30 favorites]

Some of this is probably jealousy, which can eat at you and is far easier psychologically to turn into being outwardly judgmental rather than inwardly reflective. But it's healthier to own it, to say you want those things or you want that money to be able to choose not to have those things and instead to have more choices than you have now. And some of that is probably seeing expensive things as a waste of resources that could be better applied -- but I'm sure there are also things you do that are wasteful or unnecessary that someone might judge you for. As you mention the race issue, I'm guessing some of it could also be a completely understandable anger about class in this country, and how it affects race (and vice versa) - they're pretty powerful symbols of the divide, even when the individual people are good -- and it's simultaneously not their fault as individuals, and 100% their responsibility as benefactors of systemic racism in America, which is enough to make anyone who thinks about it feel pretty crappy and judgy. And then again, some of that is assuming that people with these things must be rich people instead of (as Alterscape said) people who have massive credit card debt to have those things.

So I guess if you're trying to move past those feelings, then a combination of looking for more empathy and a little more self-examination can help. And realizing that it's okay to judge the bigger picture of what they represent, without needing to center that judgment onto the specific people.

Being in NYC should also help this a little -- try to recognize that because we're all (all but the very very wealthiest) squashed into fairly small living spaces, most New Yorkers aren't splurging on a lot of the big-ticket things you would see when looking at people with large houses. I'm constantly shocked at how many $1000 and up winter coats I see on people on the subway, but at the same time, it's insanely cold outside and when I crunch the numbers, splurging on a great, warm coat makes a lot of sense if you don't have the closet space to buy a ton of other clothes. Especially when we spend so much time walking outdoors and it can get so cold. And if your baby won't have her own room and you have to choose between the swing and the bouncy chair and the crib or the bassinet (if you're lucky - we have a great apartment and our baby slept in a pack and play in our bedroom until he moved to a shared bedroom with his siblings), you really might buy the best stroller because that's where they'll spend the most time out of the house.

All that being said, the best way I've found to deal with this was having a kid and trying my best to teach him that things aren't the key to happiness, that people with more expensive things aren't better people (and are often the opposite), that there are better uses for money, etc. And working toward creating a better world one little person at a time.
posted by Mchelly at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Once when I took a cab home from the airport, the driver, a man with a heavy accent, so probably an immigrant, looking at the landscaping by my condo, said, "Don't tell me you live in heaven." I don't think of myself as remotely rich, but that was an eye opener for me, and I often remember him saying that. Many people in the world would consider me obscenely wealthy, and it's good to think of that. There's a book called Material World that shows people from all over the world in front of their houses with all of their possessions. It's a good reality check when you're feeling like you wish you had more.

Sometimes I wish good things for people I feel annoyed by. So if I see someone walking down the street with a child, I might think, "I hope this child always stays healthy" or "I hope that this person has a lot of love in her life." It makes me think of what a total stranger may not have or may lose instead of focusing on what I can see they do have. I think I read this in a book by that horrible Tim Ferris, but it really is helpful.

(I totally get feeling this way. I have cancer, and sometimes I hate everyone who doesn't. And I'm sure there are people who would love to have my problems instead of theirs.)
posted by FencingGal at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2019 [29 favorites]

This is tough. I'm like why TF do you get adequate healthcare and vermin-free living? This is worse since we were able to move back into an expensive town with an eye towards a decent high school for my kid. Buuuuut, since I'm not going to burn it all down, I just have to suck it up and try to relax.
And after loading intermediate comments - money totally buys happiness, if you're under the livable income line, and I don't think for a second that you're jealous.
posted by turkeybrain at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2019

I give myself permission to roll my eyes for a second and then just peaceably shrug and forget about it. (Basically, I FIAMO in real life.) People like to spend their money on different things. Besides, there's someone out there rolling their eyes at me for the Fluevogs on my feet, and I don't expect them to know or care that the other 90% of what I'm wearing is secondhand.
posted by desuetude at 9:05 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

It may be worth doing a CBT type exercise here. There must be a lot of semi-conscious thoughts between seeing someone with a money/status symbol, and then feeling annoyed. Being able to articulate those thoughts will probably help, and trying to write down the chain of associations is usually effective for this kind of thing. Either you can identify the problems with them, or else realize they are right and go on being annoyed in peace.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:07 AM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Hey, I'll cop to it. I'm one of those people. I own a Canada Goose jacket, which I bought in 2012 and have worn almost every winter day since. What can I say? It's a super warm jacket, it looks pretty much the same as when I bought it, when it wasn't quite as ubiquitously trendy, and if I was stupid to have bought a $700 jacket, how much stupider would I be to get rid of it just because it's become emblematic of a certain type of person? Honestly, I get where you're coming from, but also consider that some of these purchases are not really all that expensive on a cost-per-wear basis. That is a certain type of privilege for sure, along the lines of Sam Vimes boot theory, but it's not necessarily stupid to buy an expensive coat if you can afford the immediate hit.

I own an expensive stroller, but I bought it used - if you live in an expensive neighborhood, you'll soon find that you can acquire all the kid paraphernalia you need used and in excellent condition at a sharp discount. There's a huge flow of this stuff from parent to parent all over the neighborhood. So that $1000 stroller you see is just as likely to be a $350 stroller in reality.

Before I moved to the US, I remember thinking that middle-class American people who whined about their declining incomes were just full of it - couldn't they see that on a global scale they were incredibly privileged? I would definitely have judged the question you just wrote above. Then I came here, and became part of the middle-class, and now upper-middle-class, and realized that things are more complicated than they seemed from the outside. And that has been generally true for most things. So I understand the urge to judge, but try not to ascribe the same motivations to everyone - affluent people are not a monolith, just as any other group of people isn't a monolith.
posted by peacheater at 9:08 AM on March 6, 2019 [23 favorites]

This is a personal thing, but extrapolating it might help you. I have a fair amount of semi-luxury goods, and my two-year-old, especially, has a pretty good number of such things (e.g., an expensive stroller), but we rarely buy these things for ourselves. They're gifts, especially from my in-laws, with whom I have a secretly complicated relationship because of the exact same things you're feeling. On the one hand, I wouldn't ever buy these things for myself, even if I could afford them. On the other hand, you can't really say no when someone gives you something of high quality, and you sure as hell aren't going to say no when it's something for your kid. Maybe it would help you to see these people as the recipients of gifts, rather than as the ones actually doing the conspicuous consumption. Maybe they've got an eccentric old aunt who spends all of her hoarded pennies buying things she thinks they'll like. Maybe their mother insists on them living a certain lifestyle, even though they're happy shopping for clothes at Walmart. It's probably not true, but it would help your sanity to imagine it so.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not sure how but viable this is for you, but: I know the feeling you describe well, and I think one thing that helps me is that I'm just not well-versed in the world of higher-end goods. If someone pulls out the latest iPhone I'll know roughly how much that cost, because it's been in the news and the prices are prominently displayed in enough places. But I'd never be able to recognize how much a coat on the subway cost, or the price of someone's stroller. I mean, I don't go into stores that sell thousand-dollar clothes, or on the rare occasion I'm in a department store I never linger in the sections I could never even start to afford. What this means is that I'm pretty trend-ignorant, have no idea whether something is this season's or 5 years old, and don't actually know what statement other people's belongings, or my own, are making. This might come at a social price (though I'm not really in a position to recognize it!) but it probably does reduce the ambient frustration of seeing people's conspicuous consumption when I can't actually recognize it for what it is.
posted by trig at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Eh, I kind of judge rich people (somewhat along the same lines, though I live in CA so it's more on the axis of "drives a Tesla SUV" or "bespoke juice cleanse"), and I live on the fringes of a well-off/more conspicuous consumption neighborhood. So I feel you.

I get around it in two somewhat conflicting ways:

1 - Out-snob them. The reality is that most people with $1000 designer/name brand winter coats aren't *actually* that rich. They just have a degree of disposable income that they enjoy spending on pointless flashy nonsense, which I personally wouldn't buy even if I had $1000 to drop on a coat. There's a reason I call my neighborhood "more conspicuous consumption" and not "rich". It's a lot of people who make good money and choose to spend it in a certain way, to broadcast a certain image of themselves. I don't subscribe to that image, so none of that applies to me, and I can move forward in life mostly ignoring all of it until I decide to splurge on a $5 bone marrow and smoked cherry ice cream cone, which I have the fortune to have access to because I put up with these rich fucks. (None of whom eat ice cream, and all of whose kids just pick chocolate, anyway.)

2 - Ignore/stay away/see them as an unfortunate reality of existence like bad traffic or stopped up toilets. I do a lot of this in connection with my kid, who I somewhat worry about growing up in proximity to all these entitled rich kids. There's this one exceedingly well-dressed family who hangs out at our neighborhood park and always brings this huge satchel of sand toys for the sand pit area. They're the really nice sand toys, not the dollar store ones, and they all match, work, etc. Every single goddamn time we run into them at the park, my kid is all up in their sand toys -- because he doesn't understand "not yours" yet -- and their kids are visibly upset that some snot nosed pleb might be touching their things. It's annoying, but instead of hauling out a guillotine I just take my kid to a different part of the playground and ignore the schmantzy sand toy family. (To be clear, I'm sure these sand toys cost like $22.95 or something, it's just an example.) This applies equally well to ski lift tickets, second homes, $3000 shoes, weeknight dinners at Trois Mec, and other things grownups might envy.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 10:10 AM on March 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh, and sorry for the double post, but I also frequently remind myself that my no-name cheapo versions of that thing are actually just as good, and I like them just as much as I would like whatever the sought-after expensive trend is. We have a $150 stroller from Target. It is as nice if not nicer than the $1000 ones. I honestly would not trade it and think the people spending a lot just because it's the trendy brand right now are the ones losing out.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 10:20 AM on March 6, 2019

I think you are looking at this incorrectly. People spending money for high end, durable goods made by union employees making a living wage in countries with a good standard of living is to be applauded, not reviled. If I had the money that's all I'd buy and it's still a significant consideration for me even though I'm far from rich. A good jacket or stroller can be used for a decade or more easily by multiple owners while something from H&M might last one year maybe.

Look at couture, I wouldnt spend that on a dress but it employs a lot of middle class people. The rich redistributing their wealth is OK by me.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2019 [26 favorites]

i would practice redirection: when consumed by annoyance i'd think consciously about breaking that loop, something like "why am i annoyed by these people when i could be thinking about [thing that i love]."

basically, teaching myself that my brain has better things to do with its time.
posted by zippy at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Focus on recognising and resisting/challenging the specific harms that result from significant wealth disparity. Just because Smaugism is tolerated and even seen as aspirational in our society doesn't mean it's innately a positive or necessary thing.

Shady tax stuff, disproportionate lobbying power, poor treatment of employees - these are the ill-effects of runaway capital generation that we should judge.

Rich people looking like assholes in the street does bother me occasionally (I live in an area with an unusually high amount of wealthy teens) but I try to save my rage for the bad and anti-social behaviours behaviours of the rich, and the consequences of those behaviours, rather than their dumb clothes and affectations.
posted by terretu at 10:55 AM on March 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

was brought up to despise trappings of wealth

Were you brought up to despise people who dressed shabbily? What about people who dressed in a vulgar, nouveau-riche way? After all, the second sort of people are making choices about what kind of "trappings" to dress themselves with. Or would you say, "Wow, that would be bitchy of me."

I have to say, now that I've had to hang around with a lot of rich people as part of former jobs: Despising "the trappings of wealth" is in itself a sign of major privilege. Like, assuming/knowing that you will be taken seriously at the bank, or by the police, or at the coffee shop even though you are wearing a ripped flannel and ancient boat shoes.

Money can solve a lot of problems, it makes things a lot easier. It doesn't inoculate you from: having screwed up parents, having addiction problems, getting cancer, having a kid who gets sick, having a weird social milieu that's competitive about where your kid gets into preschool, having any sort of weird feeling that what you have isn't enough.
posted by Hypatia at 11:34 AM on March 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I don't have this problem often in Boston, but visiting NYC, I've experienced the same annoyance - there are just so many rich people there who look so privileged! And going to the areas with fewer rich people just made me resent the rich ones all the more - as a thoroughly privileged person myself.

Like many above I find it helpful to:
a) notice I'm annoyed again,
b) recognize that there is still much that is hard, difficult, tough for people regardless of money,
c) and wish them health and happiness as I take my brain off to more interesting subjects.
posted by ldthomps at 11:38 AM on March 6, 2019

I used to do that. I grew up poor and took it personally that anyone had lots of money. I think several things helped me get past the automatic judgment and resentment:

1. What zippy said above. Being judgmental of other people, for any reason that doesn't involve my actual well-being, is a waste of time and brain power. It makes me feel shitty for no return. What's up with that? In my case, in the bad old days, I was constantly looking for confirmation that I was pathetic, and resenting people who appeared to be better off was part of my victim mentality.

2. Today, I remind myself that outer trappings tell you almost nothing about people. Yesterday I was in a line at Walmart (obligatory MF disclaimer that I am visiting my dad, that place is across the street, no I do not generally support oppressive national chains, etc.) and I noticed that the woman at the front of the line was wearing the most amazing winter coat I had ever seen.

It was a beautiful long black coat that appeared to be wool. It had amazing white embroidery around the neck with asymmetrical embroidery on both arms and down the front. It was just so great that I jumped out of my place in line as she was leaving just to complement her on how great she looked in that coat. "It's couture," she said. "I can't remember the name but I got it at the shelter. No one else would touch it." You can bet I had no idea this woman used to be in a shelter or maybe still is.

3. What Americans own is not an accurate reflection of their disposable income because so many Americans are in debt. Remember, a bunch of people could not easily get their hands on 400 bucks in an emergency. So are you annoyed at them for being rich or just for looking rich? As I discovered at Walmart and as many studies show, those are two different things.

4. Mindfullness, as mentioned above, is also really helpful. It can be easy as taking a breath, then refocusing your attention on colors, or shapes or textures around you. You can tell your brain, No Thank You, and deliberately refocus your thoughts. Keep doing this, and the judgment/resentment stuff will fade.

Good luck, OP!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:54 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I totally get what you are talking about and maybe you can delve deeper into this feeling.

I used to live in a very rich scandinavian capital city where there was all the stuff you describe- fancy jackets and strollers etc. But it never bothered me there. I WANTED a fancy jacket etc. and I got one, but I didn't feel angry at the people who were wearing them.

Later I moved to a very fancy different city in Europe and had children and OMG did my feelings change. I cannot tell you the UTTER RAGE I felt when I was unable to park in my fancy nursery because of GIGANTIC BLACK SUVs who took up the entire parking lot. And the moms in the nursery who were treated very nicely were the ones who were decked out in the fancy jackets and looked great (I couldn't fit into my fancy jacket anymore at that point) and I was always struggling with my two kids in feeling gross and my car was just a normal car and I think we were just normal. I had a bugaboo donkey weekend explorer special edition too- but it didn't make me feel good and my kids were always screaming in it. It was the pits.

For me, I definitely feel a valid rage about the SUV thing because they take up more of the road and don't seem to care and its hard to park around them and that annoys me. A ferrari that can fit in a spot is fine by me, it was the space taking that made me crazy... HOWEVER- I think it was the impression that if I wasn't doing those things or wearing those things then I was less than them.

REALLY, I could have been one of them. But that just isn't who I am. I wish I could walk around with that aura... but I can't. I never felt that way in my previous fancy schmancy scandinavian capital city and I think it was more the fact that I felt at home there and identified with the culture in huge ways and it was my BIG TIME happy place... I felt completely connected to the place and the people. In the later city I felt disconnected big time and the BIG BLACK SUV's were probably just a side part of that.
posted by flink at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

This may or may not help you, but what I do is I engage in a lot of visualization, and then I let it go.

OK, so I think it's genuinely immoral to be that rich, the greatest predictor of wealth is wealth, and they could all donate 40% of their $$$ and fix tons of NYC's problems. But there is nothing I or you can directly do about that situation--we can work towards policy and social change, that's good, but in the moment so it's easy to just simmer with frustration and envy. Feeling helpless.

So instead I imagine myself Robin Hood! I imagine them welcoming in homeless folks to their fancy condos! I imagine a fantasy world in which radical redistribution of wealth and reparations for slavery are politically popular ideas! I imagine those things in very, very great detail---

And then I take a deep breath and let it go. That part is very important. Take the stress you are building up, do something with it, and then relax yourself.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:03 PM on March 6, 2019

Every milieu has its problems. And regardless of social class, we can all fall prey to anxiety, depression, toxic pressure, insecurity, loneliness, ennui, existential crises, guilt, isolation, and addiction. Being rich provides more ready access to goods and services, and I imagine this would create pressure to Be Perfect and Always Okay, Because Otherwise What is Your Excuse.

Ultimately, whether it's on a lumpy futon or satin sheets, we all go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning with our own thoughts. It's impossible to know the nature of those thoughts in someone else, and you'd have to really intimately know a person to even make an educated guess.

We contain multitudes.
posted by delight at 12:30 PM on March 6, 2019

You live in the same neighbourhood and grew up privileged too - it sounds like you’re as wealthy as they are, you just choose to spend your money on different things. You never know, in a few years they might be jealous of the fact that you can retire comfortably or can afford medical care, where they just have a bunch of fancy outdated clothing.

Don’t ever assume that what someone is wearing or driving is indicative of how much money they actually have.
posted by Jubey at 12:41 PM on March 6, 2019

[Couple comments deleted. Folks this needs to not become a debate over the ideas "rich" vs "upper middle class" vs etc. Whatever word you think is more correct, please stick to how OP can avoid being annoyed by specifically the people they're describing. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

The most popular watch among millionaires is Seiko. Not Rolex, not one of the many watches that cost as much as a new car that are advertised everywhere. The most common car is a Toyota, not an Audi. The fact is that the "rich" people you see are high spenders, but have not accumulated wealth. Spending is visible, saving is secret. Think about it, anyone will tell you about their new jacket or latest vacation, but would your closest friend honestly answer the question, "How much did you put away in your retirement account last month?" They're more likely to talk about their sex life than answer money questions honestly.

This perspective on the appearance of wealth certainly makes me feel better when I see toddlers in $$$ North Face jackets.
posted by wnissen at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I find when I'm being most judgmental of others it's about things I'm judgmental about towards myself as well. Materialism and wastefulness are huge areas for this. And often the things you can see to be most reflexively judgmental of are areas where it isn't really grounded in values, but in a layer of class-identification and performativity instead.

So, I might ask yourself, how comfortable are you in your own consumption choices and appearance? Are you mad at all these people because you're being so careful not to look like the worst stereotype of a rich person and there they are undermining that? Because you thought these were universal rules of conduct and it turns out they aren't?

Is there something more substantive you could do in your own life to reinforce your values, so that you can think of that more and of appearances less?
posted by Lady Li at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I get super annoyed by things in the way you describe, it usually has to do with things within myself that I don't want to face. I'm obsessing about something, saying "They're so X, Y, Z!" It's draining, so I try asking myself, "Do you really mean, 'I'm so X, Y, Z.'?" My first reaction defensively says, "NO OF COURSE NOT," but if I think more deeply and honestly, I get insight. That is, how what I claim to despise is present within me. That acknowledgement alone helps, and frees me to start working on accepting/changing it.
posted by hannahelastic at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2019

I disagree that OP should focus on how secretly not-rich these apparently rich people might be, or on the hypothetical tragedies of the wealthy. That just seems like a version of Orwellian doublespeak. Yes, these people wearing rich people clothes in a rich people area doing rich people things are in fact probably rich. And, yes, that means that their lives are easier and more pleasant in nearly all ways than they would be with less money.

The question is, how do you know that people are living lives of ease and plenty right in front of others (maybe including you) who are categorically not -- and yet not let that eat away at you? In my opinion, you just have to cultivate your own garden.

Seriously, I would recommend that you (re)read Candide. In my view, it's about the struggle to deal with exactly these kinds of questions -- why is life so easy for some and so hard for others, are the hardships "worth it," is "easy" necessarily better, what's even the point of it all? etc. I think you might get a lot out of (re)reading it at this stage in your life, OP, given that these questions are top of mind for you right now.
posted by rue72 at 1:24 PM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wearing any ‘trappings’ can be the need to fit in and feel love and acceptance. People sometimes need to keep up appearances because it is a sign that they belong. They may need that security. In different ways, we all do. Start looking at their need to fit in to their world as a need to feel loved, understood, and, mostly, the need to feel safe, and see what happens.
posted by MountainDaisy at 1:51 PM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Watch a couple of seasons of Leverage. Every episode they set up a bad guy (corrupt politicians, corporate executives, rich assholes stealing transplant organs, etc) and in 45 minutes they've knocked them down most satisfyingly.

If you don't want to go with righteous anger, you could try something like this:

1. Notice a rich person being rich in front of you.
2. Get mad about it.
3. Realize "Holy shit, I'm expending all of this emotional work/brainspace on a rich person and I'm not even getting paid for it!"
4. Think about what your rate/minute of brainspace should be. Inflate it. Your brain is worth so much fucking money. Set the rate at something stupid high that a rich person would pay.
5. Understand that this person probably would be able to pay you that, but probably wouldn't, were you to hypothetically bring it up. This is a poor business opportunity. Your brain has work to do elsewhere (wishing that Leverage weren't cancelled, for example).
6. Move on.

[edited for The Grammar(TM)]
posted by snerson at 2:14 PM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've recently had the chance to spend time with some folks in income brackets far above my own, including staying with a family in one of the richest towns in America and having some conversations with them. What struck me was how... bizarrely like mine?... their lives were. Sure, they might make 500k per year, but a lot of their concerns seemed uncannily similar to mine and those of my childhood family - struggling to pay the mortgage, marital discord and other relationship friction, dissatisfaction with their bodies, worrying about whether their children's schools were good fits, worrying about whether they're saving enough, worrying about how they appear to their peers, etc.

I suppose I had always assumed that having money would make life worry-free; it was shocking to me to realize that rich people have basically the same problems that I and those that I know have, with variance just in the details. I also saw that being rich (at least for those in fairly homogenous communities) often comes with some of its own unique problems, like the pressure to get particular sorts of plastic surgery and otherwise appear as a Stepford Wife. It also made me realize that to those in income brackets below me, I may well appear rich and problem free, which certainly does not feel the case to me. All this is to say that first of all, most people get so caught up by the norms of their peers that their habits and consumption are mostly unconscious and reactive in response to social pressure from their peer group, rather than something deliberately chosen to flaunt their wealth before those less fortunate (which was kind of how I had experienced it before). And second of all, that while money obviously provides some insulation against life's problems, it's often less than we might think - that having more money often simply just gives you more money. You can't trade it for marital happiness, or a lack of personal stress, or easygoing children. Even rich people have most of the same problems the rest of us have. These recollections have absolutely increased my ability to be charitable rather than judgmental towards rich people.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:47 PM on March 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've lived in a neighborhood where I sometimes get angry at the entitled people around me. One thing I often do is to say hi to people walking past, especially women walking alone. Most people in their 40s or so will at least make eye contact or exchange smiles and older people usually seem so surprised that a stranger would smile and say hello to them.

The other thing I do is to go out of my way to chat with local people who aren't necessarily entitled - cashiers, retail workers, folks working in restaurants, homeless people, etc. It's great to build a rapport with them, like letting them know that there are non-entitled people around them who don't look down on them.

This may be completely irrelevant to your experiences in your neighborhood, so take it with a grain of salt.
posted by bendy at 3:19 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I find it easier to swap grumpy feelings for wry amusement than to get rid of them altogether. If rich people were making me grumpy, I'd try a mantra like "lol, rich people" and focus on feeling amused at how silly they are, instead of being angry. The equivalent works (mostly) for the kinds of people who annoy me.
posted by lollusc at 4:30 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow. I've been thinking about this question since I first read it and I'm really dissatisfied with the previous answers. I want to answer the original question, but first set up what I think we need to be thinking about to answer it.

First, there is nothing wrong with critically judging rich people. Rich people are a problem, wealth inequality is at obscene levels right now, and you are right to be bothered by rich people. A lot of people, myself included, think there should not be rich people. This is not the same thing as eliminating other type of identity (like people of color, different ethnic groups, religions, etc) because we're just talking about changing the values of our society and taking the wealth and sharing it communally among all of us (as opposed to segregating a group out and persecuting them, we're just not letting them own superyachts).

Second, we have a cult of the individual in our society and are taught to think about individuals and not things like class (and class interests). This is related to the meritocracy dogma that a little experience in the real world and some common sense should disabuse: this idea that people are rich because they somehow worked for it or earned it. Most rich people are rich because their parents are rich and there are a lot of people who work their entire lives and die poor.

Now, let's combine the second and the first.

The problem with the annoyance of rich people, some of whom are very nice, funny, empathetic, sweet people, is that we're using that same individualized reaction to what is really not about individuals but a class of people. And being annoyed with rich people without working against the ruling class is like expressing discomfort at the symptom without addressing the problem. If you don't like rich people, you should work against them: participate in union efforts, anti-capitalist protests, and join socialist groups and help socialist causes.

That is how you deal with it.

Mindfullness, "letting [working class] peopleknow that there are non-entitled people around them who don't look down on them," and all these other strategies are just telling you to normalize and block a cognitive dissonance provoked by historically obscene levels of wealth inequality.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:36 AM on March 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Interesting question. It's not clear whether you are judging people because they are rich and you believe that there should be less inequality in general (since you describe yourself as privileged and live in a nice neighborhood in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.) or just because you look down on conspicuous consumption. Regardless, judging someone as you walk down the street has no benefit, as you seem to realize. I think the answer is the same as it would be for anyone who is potentially annoying for whatever reason--focus on cultivating compassion. Check out the loving-kindness meditation. Alternately, the more you can get involved with things that interest you and deepening relationships with friends/family/etc, you'll probably think about those things more and be less likely to notice other people's displays of wealth.
posted by pinochiette at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2019

Thanks for the thoughts, suggestions. I probably worded my question wrong. I'm not envious, jealous or hate the rich (I'm one of them,after all). Wealth inequality is terrible and I think about every day (but I'm not thinking of these people when i think about it, ironically). Basically all my friends are "rich" (asian and white) people, so I know they are people and have issues etc.

After introspection, the annoyance comes from me applying my values (i.e being thrifty, living within means, etc) to a certain group of people (rich white people that I see walking around the street). I'm annoyed that I'm annoyed and has an impact on my experience and enjoyment of the city. Its hard for me to ignore it because I like observing(my wife, who is white but didn't grow up privileged doesn't notice it and tells me to think of it is a cultural observation).

I believe the ideas of mindfulness and re-orienting when the thoughts happen are the ones I feel like I'll take away from this thread. But there is great discussion here in any case.
posted by sandmanwv at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

To give a rather different answer

When I see rich people when I'm out and about, it makes me angry and resentful. But that just makes me upset, and doesn't help bring them down. So I tell myself so save that anger and energy for when it is useful. For when the first will be made last and the last first.

Which helps get me into more pleasant thoughts about how much further they have to fall when change comes, how they will see the error of their ways and curse that they could ever have been so foolish, and understand that they have themselves to blame for their predicament.

Which can then lead into even more pleasant thoughts of cameraderie and co-operation, of how much I value those who stand with me, of how in the future, when those resources are better distributed, there will be so much less suffering in the world.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2019

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