We get to decide what our cultural values are and who best represents them. We do this through politics, arts, movies, activism, etc. We decide who gets to be put on a pedestal. And when we worship money, treating rich people as though they are inherently better or smarter than the rest of us, we are making a choice about what we value.
I propose we come up with a new set of heroes.
Rather than assuming rich people are smart, we could assume they are stubborn, selfish and lucky. Donald Trump, for example, is an abusive man who inherited wealth from his father who also taught him how to break the rules without getting caught. He values money and his status over all else and he seeks to destroy what other have built in order to protect those things.
He is also a narcissist. Many “successful” people are. Narcissists can have magnetic personalities and the ability to make you feel passionately about a topic of their choosing. They thrive on your attention and will generally get what they want through manipulation and coercion. We in America, tend to be so dazzled by wealth and financial success of others, we heap praise and adulation on these people when we should be asking, what are they doing with their wealth and power to build up the web of humanity.
Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are not heroes. They are selfish and we don’t need to worship them as gods just because they were born or have become insanely wealthy. We can instead look to other people to be our leaders, or heroes.
José Andrés is one of my personal heroes who builds up the web of humanity with his actions. If you don’t know him, look up World Central Kitchen to see what he has been up to for the last several years. He has been a leader in rebuilding food infrastructure in areas all across the world after they have been devastated by tropical storms and other natural disasters. He saw a need in the world, matched his skill and passion to that need and puts every one of his heart and soul into caring for others who have lost everything.
Another example is director and filmmaker Deeyah Khan. She is a Muslim woman who has made multiple documentaries on subjects as sensitive as racism, Islamophobia and abortion. At times her films have shown how she has put herself in physical danger in the interest of opening people’s eyes to our shared humanity. Her integrity and vulnerability are her biggest assets in her storytelling. She is a hero who, like José Andrés, has found a niche where she can combine her skills and passions on projects where she can reach others through art, building the web of humanity.
So forget about all the rich guys trying to race each other to take over the world (or Mars). Don’t give them another ounce of your attention; they’re not worth it. Find somebody who is or, better yet, focus on how you can be one of the leaders that others can look up to, building up the web of humanity by applying your skills in an area of your passion focused on serving others. Those are the people we should train our culture to support. We can direct our focus to something better.