The NHS definition of hoarding demonstrates how badly understood the problem is:
"A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter.
It's considered to be a significant problem if:
Someone in a bedsit with this disorder is going to be dealt with very differently than someone in a detached, 8 bedroom property even though both people are suffering. 87 year old Mrs Appleton was evicted from her home because a housing trust believed her hoarding was a health and safety issue: the trust made her life safer by making her homeless.
It’s not news that the rich are treated differently from the poor. The Panama Papers are not news.
We know that a majority of rich people are obsessive about being rich. They have developed a mental disorder, a form of OCD, which has profound and blatantly deleterious effects on the people around them. It’s just that - unlike people who hoard newspapers and old toys who get upset when their family try to address the issue – money hoarders they don’t know the people that they effect. And they are never directly confronted with the effects of their hoarding. In most cases they’re surrounded by other money hoarders at best and parasitic sycophants who milk them at worst.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy, morally or in terms of mental wellbeing. Where prosperity becomes unhealthy is when a person identifies so profoundly with their wealth that it skews their version of reality. Just as the very poor person can justify burglary so the rich person can justify withholding money that they know helps fund roads, pavements, clean water, the sewerage system, railways, gas and electricity, things that they use every day. Rich people aren’t stupid, they know that poor people proportionately pay more in taxes than they do. Rich people who hoard money are mentally ill.
By no means am I suggesting that we feel sorry for them. I'm proposing that we watch out for similar behaviour in ourselves.
Excellent research shows that the more prosperous we feel the less we care about other people. This is repeatable in a lab-based rigged game of monopoly where players win meaningless tokens: we are hard wired to become increasingly self-centred the more affluent we feel.
There’s a lot to be said about the profound unhappiness of the rich. Many are brought up never to trust anyone because, “They don’t like you, they like your money.” Imagine what that does to a child. Just as eating too much good food eventually becomes toxic so having everything you want becomes poisonous, it’s called Ahedonia. And the smart ones know it:_
“You know, I thought the more money I made, that I would spend more. And that’s the opposite. The more money I make, the more I want to save. I didn’t think it would be like that and I’ve actually surprised myself.”
For many rich people life becomes essentially insignificant. Imagine how unwell a person has to be if contributing to the wellbeing, and in many cases the survival of other human beings is of no importance or interest . There but for the grace of god go we all.
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