Small private income

Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

We’ve all heard it said, “If you’ve got it, you don’t talk about it”.  It is a comment usually applied to people with money.  And from what I can tell, it’s true.  Upsettlingly true I find. Modesty was never my strong point and I admit to begrudge it in others.  Especially when it comes to money.  Artistic talent is something I can tolerate, but people who have money outdistance every other virtue as far as I’m concerned.  Which isn’t to suggest I couldn’t care a fig for the real virtues of living, I do of course.  It’s just that on the social scene money is the trump card.  It’s such a patently measurable quality, so readily discernible, so capable of quick assessment.  It is for example all you need to know about someone whom you’ve just met.  The other more complicated details about the person’s character and philosophies of life can follow in due course and will be the result of a fluid and natural evolution.  Besides it’s hard to imagine someone going on about being a philanthropist or any other long-suffering altruist.  It rather defeats the point.

There are as many levels of financial comfort as there are people who enjoy it.  For those who have vast amounts of the stuff, I hardly need bother myself.  They are of no more than statistical interest. The vicarious pleasures of the wealthy are easily achieved through books and the movies.  If however one wants to keep their feet on the ground, a dose of common sense is required. What I prefer are those with a small private income.  It is a level of distinction which while clearly self-sustaining never robs the person of his humanity.  I’m afraid I can’t say the same about the very rich.  Likely based on purely anecdotal stories I have decided that people who are excessively rich are the most precarious and least to be envied.  All that business about people jumping out of windows on Wall Street in the 1930s for example.

Though we know we shouldn’t do it, we attribute a great deal more pleasantness to wealth than we should.  Primarily the objection isn’t that money isn’t a nice thing, rather it’s that we incorrectly imagine how different we’d be if we had it ourselves.  That’s the myth of lotteries of course, all that hype about what an exciting person you’d become with millions of dollars. What little I know about people who have won lotteries (from many thousands to several million dollars) I can only conclude that little changes.  The sobering truth is that we’re the same person the next morning and for that reason alone the modification is disappointing even disheartening.  Nothing propels us faster to an examination of our inner reality than the admission that the material world is merely an extension of the decay that is the fate of every one of us. I’m sorry but I’m not terribly moved by the prospect of a private jet or an island in the sun.

But a small private income is hardly objectionable.  It has besides such a gracious ring to it.  It’s like an old Harris tweed jacket, a statement without being a pronouncement.  It further has the advantage of being on the right side of outright Bolshevism.  It wouldn’t likely attract much attention in the Revolution.