Identifying the money-grubbers

Monday, November 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:26 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Well, one of those “free-market advocates” chewed me out pretty good after last week’s column and tried to teach me not to take their names in vain again. Unfortunately, I’m past the point where those race and gender comments have any effect on me. Guys, I thought, I was born under segregation, went through the civil rights era and although affirmative action and I have never touched bases, I’ve heard that garbage a million times. Actually, we don’t have a fight. They have all the money and political power and can do anything they want, anything except make me lie down and roll over.

This is one of those periods in my life when I’m glad that I grew up in a ghetto. That’s where I learned about all the games people play. I experienced my first acquaintances with several people who made their living by hustling the streets. I found out how talking fast and being skilled at misdirecting people could result in amazing success, depending on how well you learned the game. In fact, I’ve found out since, that all political, economic and generic con games are based on those same old street games. The most valuable part of my education was when I witnessed firsthand how often those who lied to people also stole from them. I was fortunate to come from people who had a value system that defined lying and stealing as morally wrong, at any level.

Coming of age under those circumstances accustomed me to functioning in a society where people live by all kinds of rules, and it endowed me with the ability to discern between what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior for myself. I consider a wise person as one who is confident at an early age that there are things he or she will never do for the sake of money. I suspect the reason why most of us never acquire wealth is that we lack that “killer instinct” to do whatever is necessary to get rich. That’s probably also the reason why many who inherit money can’t hold onto it.

It is certainly understandable that people who aggressively pursue money often feel that they must defend their motives, even when they are not attacked. That’s because their attitudes and methods are generally disfavored by the public as a whole. Some of them feel that they must constantly tell us that we don’t understand economic principles and financial realities. It’s not their performance that should be faulted, but our intellectual inferiority. If one can accept this explanation, a perfect opening has been presented for an offering of an upscale variation of a “fast talk” street game. This is where you look sincere and talk fast, and sure enough, ultimately, somebody will give you two ten dollar bills for a five or all their money to invest in the stock market. On the other hand, if you reject the explanation, you get insulted and humiliated. If you respond by laughing in their face, you can earn their eternal hatred.

I try to respond to people in a respectful manner. But I admit I truly resent the current political climate, where rudeness, arrogance and smugness is applauded. It is true that many Americans appear oblivious to political history, but it’s a bad practice to assume that everyone is. Many people are very clear about what has gone on in this country over the past several decades. I don’t care if a few percent of the population own 99 percent of the country’s wealth or even the world’s wealth. There is still a certain percentage who will refuse to back down from what they believe to be right.

It’s distressing to hear so many people say that they are tuning the national news out these days, but it’s certainly understandable. Many of us have a life beyond politics, sports and crime. Some of us are concerned about making life more meaningful and enjoyable for people in our families, neighborhoods and communities. A lot of people have young families and older parents to support, and making life easier for corporate executives is not on their agenda. Helping insurance companies secure their bottom lines is not a popular goal among many working class people. How the stock market works out its problems with its board of directors is not of vital interest to school administrators while they are trying to balance continually diminishing budgets to educate the nation’s children. It’s becoming an either/or kind of proposition out here, folks. Either one is concerned about the quality of life for all Americans or one is concerned about the moneymakers continuing to make money.

I find it interesting that people who are on top of the world, who have vulgar amounts of money, prestige, power and everything this world has to offer should be concerned about how insignificant people, such as I, feel about anything. I am a threat only in the sense that the money-grubbers will never make a believer out of me.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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