Jealousy in a Jealous Society

Social Justice – a Joke!!

One of my friends drives an Aston Martin. It cost around 89,000.00 Euros. “And”, I asked “are you enjoying it?” “Yes, certainly, except that I cannot drive it when I see any of my clients, because they would think I bought the car with their money.”

Basically, my friend is perfectly right. It has been bought with his client’s money. Except that he did not get it for his car, but for his unorthodox and helpful advice.

When Marius Müller-Westernhagen was subjected to unfriendliness because of his money, he said: “Have I stolen my money, or what?”

Sometimes, when I tell some of my acquaintances what outrageous taxes I have to pay, all I hear is: “I wish I had to pay that kind of tax”. To this day, I have never been congratulated for paying such high taxes. Nobody ever said: “My dearest Ulf, I think your contribution to the general welfare is absolutely admirable”. Sometimes I get the impression that I had better hide my wealth. But why?

A Jealous Society

Are we a jealous society? The answer is: Yes. Saying that someone has a ‘high income’ is offensive. In Germany, you have to apologize for being a success. If you own more than others, it is assumed that you must have come by it through criminal activities; there must have been something sinister involved. People with a ‘high income’ should give more to the public, because they are not doing enough for our society. It would be best if we re-introduced property tax. Even though those who demand its re-introduction most vehemently know that the federal constitutional court has outlawed it, their cry for it comes often enough. But who cares that it has been outlawed? Ironically, people keep forgetting that the high-tax regulations for high-income employees already contain their extra contribution. What is especially sad is that those who are jealous will never admit it. They go on about duty, fair share for everybody, political correctness or a sense of mission, or else they claim that they have suffered great injustice or similar nonsense.

As I see it, jealousy is even worse than hatred, because if someone hates me, at least he admits it. Psychologists agree that mostly people with a weak ego tend to be jealous. They say jealousy is symptomatic for immature narcissism. Of course, people so handicapped have to expose charlatans. They must see to it that universal justice prevails and prove that success can only have been the result of unlawful behaviour. Psychologists also think that jealousy is not a sentiment we are born with. A jealous person must have suffered a great disappointment by a beloved person earlier in life. Karl Marx said once: “Common jealousy as manifested in power is a hidden form of greed.” Jealous people, so psychologists say, are practically incapable of establishing a stable friendship or partnership. A jealous person will always try to define a relationship through the wealth he envies the other party. All plotting, mobbing, and unfair rumours are caused by jealousy. Unless we overcome jealousy, there is hardly a chance that we will ever win against in-company mobbing and plotting. All we can do is fight them.

The History of Jealousy

Why is that? Let us look at the history of jealousy. The first to ask the question were the ancient Greeks. They found out that disputes were constantly erupting between those who owned more and those who owned less. Those who owned something did not want to share and those who owned little or nothing wanted a share. The logical conclusion was that those who owned more were just thrifty, since they never wanted to part with any or enough of what they had. Wanting to better the situation, they saw that this uneven distribution of property caused jealousy among those left out, which, to the ancient Greeks, was the real problem.

Thus, for the ancient Greeks the unbalanced ownership situation was the factor responsible for jealousy. Aristotle took a closer look and discovered three different kinds of jealousy:

Jealousy due to Impotence

“Luck stops at my front door”, “It is always me who comes last”, “Life always treats me hardest”. These are examples of how some people complain. A jealous person who feels helpless suffers. It is painful for him to see others own more than he does. However, the poor guy is wrong when assuming the reason for his pain originates outside himself.

Thomas of Aquin found this type of jealousy rather unhealthy. He wondered how anybody can feel jealous for something he should be glad about. Even the ancient Greeks found out that this type of jealousy ate up people from inside.

Jealousy of Ill Wishing

The second type of jealousy is what the ancient Greeks call jealousy of ill wishing. “May that person suffocate in his wealth”, “I hope his money will be his downfall”. The jealous person wished the prosperous one pestilence. For Karl Marx, this type of jealousy was the source of strong emotions during the first phase of communism. His followers, however, seem to have missed this. Thomas of Aquin knew the reactions of a jealous person all too well. He thought that this type of jealousy was going to create envy, ill rumours, gloating, hatred and brainwashing. To me, it seems like Thomas of Aquin could have said this only yesterday.

Jealousy Leading to Ambition

Here, the ancient Greeks discovered something positive. This type of jealousy leads to improved efforts. Instead of being envy of what someone else has, I want to better my own position. This is like the parachutist who, seeing his fellow parachutist fall faster than he does due to an unopened parachute, opens his own parachute with the words: “What, you want a competition?”

In the 18th century, Adam Smith found this type of jealousy rather acceptable. Competition promotes economic growth. He knew, however, that this competition will always mean success for some and failure for others. These inequalities were his theory for social jealousy. In his opinion, law and order where at risk, which made politics important for protecting property against all these jealous people! Unfortunately, our politicians do not seem to have read Adam Smith.

Abolishing Jealousy

So what did the ancient Greeks do? Prudent as they were, they wanted to abolish jealousy. For them, jealousy was an illness. So, around 500 B.C., they decided to distribute wealth equally among all people. Then they waited for some time, wanting to see if the illness “jealousy” disappeared. Unfortunately, however, it did not disappear. Regardless of equal distribution of wealth, the people remained jealous. They still felt they were being treated unfairly. “Basically, I believe I should have more than my neighbour, because my individual circumstances differ from his”, was the general sentiment. The ancient Greeks found out that all men are, after all, not equal, which is why you cannot treat them as equals. Jealousy remained.

Consequently, the ancient Greeks abandoned equality. To them, equality seemed not to be a good way to overcome the illness “jealousy”. It is interesting how the ancient Greeks called their method. They called it “social justice”.

In our current situation, I think it would be helpful for some politicians to be confronted with a good portion of the history of jealousy whenever they start going on about social justice (and hiding their own jealousy behind it?).

UDP (translated by EG)

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