Last quotation from Strength To Love that struck me. He’s talking about slavery and segregation, and how people let it go on for so long, and he writes: “Men convinced themselves that a system which was so economically profitable must be morally justifiable.”
Man. There’s so much truth in that statement. I can’t speak to the past, though I have a strong suspicion that he’s right, but I feel like I see this everywhere today. By total providence / luck, I ended up in life at a workplace filled with wealthy people and living in a neighborhood also filled with wealthy people. It would be ungrateful to complain about it, and I’m not, but I still feel uncomfortable around it, and spend a lot of time observing, not feeling like everyone else. And one thing I have noticed is that there’s an undercurrent among rich people of moral superiority. It’s not (usually) overt. But there’s just this vibe that their wealth validates their life decisions, that it demonstrates that they made better choices than other people, that they must have been “right”.
I recently read the new Tiger Woods’ biography and it’s fairly disturbing (he barely seems human). One story involves his personal lawyer for some time (whom Tiger, as he frequently does, completely cut out of his life suddenly and without comment). This lawyer engaged in some questionable dealings while Tiger was still an amateur. As a reader, it seems pretty clear that what he did was wrong. But he insists even now that he did nothing wrong. If anything, the problem was with the rules, not with him.
I see this with certain rich people. They feel morally justified by their wealth and power such that if they are challenged as being wrong, they’d sooner question the rules than reconsider their own behavior. You’d think it would be different for engineers, because the outcomes for our peers who are just as intelligent and hard-working vary wildly. It should be obvious that it’s almost all luck and has nothing to do with us. But it’s not the case.