By RJ Eskow
The love of money for money’s sake is the social disease of our time. We see it all around us: in the celebration of ill-gotten stock gains, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the words of Kanye West, in the commercialization of charity and even spirituality.
This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. When I was in elementary school I was sent to a school counselor for being moody, introspective – in other words, for being either a proto-goth or a writer in the making. I was asked to draw a picture of myself as a happy adult, and the resulting portrait showed a rich man standing beside a Rolls-Royce with an ascot around his neck.
In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royces at the time and the Beatles seemed happy. The ascot was borrowed from my TV hero, a millionaire playboy turned a police detective, on a show called Burke’s Law. Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. And what did we know about the angst of the rich in Utica, NY, in a family of five living on a community college professor’s income?
The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans it was a time of opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become.