The first time the media expressed the “finance man” in cinema, the audience was enthralled. Chase the money, get ahead, be ruthless, do whatever it takes and morals be damned! Martini’s and pinstriped suites engulfed by roiling clouds of cigar smoke, speaking the language of the 1% as they shovel cocaine up their noses. The horrors of Wall Street and its opulence caught many, hook line and Swiss made sinker.
Now as young college students, most of us know for certain that the ignorant dreams of our teenage years are in the past, but why that appeal? These Hollywood roles glorify the worst traits of the working world, along with behaviors that will end your marriage (and potentially your life) post haste. As a rational person one knows this behavior shouldn't seem enjoyable, but is there an aspect to that portrait that is appealing for a reason?
There is a great joy and sense of comfort many take in the idea that one should cultivate experiences and broaden one’s knowledge in many different areas. The Sonoma State University community does a wonderful job of instilling this drive in its students, but what about the drive for wealth? Now by no means am I advocating a meaningless life driven solely by the desire for money, but there is a quote by Napoleon Hill, a self help author from the era of the great depression that says it all.
"Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches."
This is coming from a man trying to provide financial help in one of the worst times in America’s economy, who’s words over the course of 70 plus years have remained true, selling almost 100 million copies of “Think and Grow Rich.” Of course one can’t make this argument without acknowledging the clear wealth inequality that this country currently struggles with. In the recent report by the charity group Oxfam, the world’s billionaires saw their fortunes increase by 12% over the course of this past year. That averages out to an increase of $2.5 billion each. During that same year, we saw an 11% drop in wealth from the lowest earning half of the world.
These are horrifying numbers and represent a societal issue that causes ever more concern worldwide, but is it wrong to aspire towards? According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 40% of low income Americans play the lottery in hopes of winning millions (and last year $1.6 billion), isn’t that just a lazy way of trying to join the 1%?
The rich and their lifestyles are often scorned because of the massive wealth gap, but why should we feel punished for aspiring towards a goal like that. As college students mostly working in retail or food service, the chances of such a young individual getting that Lamborghini are slim. However if through one’s hard work, sweat, mental anguish and tears they reach a point where they can comfortably slip into that income percentage, then we will be damned if we are supposed to feel guilty.
That same rush many felt watching those over the top arrogant a-holes on the trading floor or boardroom conference call chase their money is a rush of winning, a feeling of “you’re goddamn right I can do it,” of pride and accomplishment. Movies such as Jerry Maguire are inspirational for a reason, they display almost obsessive hard work being rewarded with tremendous financial success. We should all lead balanced, wholesome lives that promote beauty and learning, but why can’t people try and make a fortune anymore without being ashamed?
In the words made forever famous by a screaming, desperate Tom Cruise, “Show me the money!”