How can money change people?
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Ever since the human society became too large and complex for barter trade to be efficient, we have had a means of exchange, some representation of wealth, which makes trade easier and more functional. As such, of course, it has immense potential to affect our actions, our thinking, our emotions, our life.
We often hear the old adage that money changes people. Its manifestation in practice usually goes something like: "Dave was such a good guy, but then he got into some money and became a total insufferable asshole." Sounds familiar? So, does wealth really have the potential to turn a kind, loving and gentle person into an annoying pretentious fucknut?
I believe not.
They say money is a terrible master, but an excellent servant. Money does not change the nature of a person. However, it does provide him with (more) power and possibilities to act out on his nature. It provides him with means and tools to express himself. It gives him the confidence and courage to act out on his true nature. His true self. The self which he might have been hiding from everyone when he didn't have money, because he was too timid and too afraid that the people would not approve, perhaps even banish him if his true nature and his resulting behaviour would not be deemed as "socially acceptable". The urge to be compliant is ingrained deep in us, since if we go back in time, being un-compliant with what the society deemed to be "normal" behaviour could be dangerous, even fatal. Times are different now, and survival of an individual is not so dependent on him being compliant anymore. However, the individual needs enough means to survive. The means - money - gives the individual the the power and the potential to not care about the unacceptability of his behaviour and nature anymore, thus he is ready and willing to express it fully.
Money does not "make" a person bad or good. We judge a person by his actions, and if someone's actions are prevalently such that he illegitimately causes harm to others and encroaches on their rights, we deem he (or she) is "bad". If the financial status of such a person changes, he/she will not inhenrently become "worse" (or better), but the reach of his actions will increase, thus we perceive him to be worse. Money just makes his actions more powerful, broader, more impactful, more potent. A good, moral and benevolent person without money will not be any better, more moral and more benevolent with money, but he will be able to take positive and beneficial actions on a larger scale. A bad, malevolent and harm-inducing person without money will not be any "worse", more malevolent or more evil when he has money, but his actions will reverberate more in society and will thus make him look as if he has become corrupted, meaner, more evil than before, when nobody (or almost nobody) noticed him. A sadistic prick without money will poison a neighbour's dog; or soak a purring kitten in gasoline and light it on fire; or rip the limbs off grasshoppers; or puncture the football of the kids playing soccer next door. But make this same sadistic prick wealthy and powerful and he will finance terrorism, or establish a cult and instruct his followers to commit mass shootings; or establish a political party, seize power in a country and eradicate an entire ethnic group in mass genocide. It's the same guy. Is he any "more" evil than he was before? No, he just acquired tools to express his mean nature more broadly, more strongly. Now, everybody notices him. The money itself does not mean anything, if the internal issues which cause the prick to commit horrible things, are not resolved.
What makes us think money corrupts people is the fact that sometimes people only dare to show their true nature when they are shielded by their wealth. Dave did not become an asshole when he got into money. He was probably an asshole before, he was just putting up a mask of friendliness because he was afraid of the consequences that expression of his true assholish nature might bring. Now, he can dispose of the mask and show his actual colors.
Now, there is a big, BIG disclaimer here: just because you perceive someone to be mean or evil, does not mean that they in fact are mean or evil. It goes the same for good. Our perception of the world influences, affects, even defines our reality. We must always be aware of that, and look at the world with this knowledge in the back of our minds. Everyone looks at the world and other people with a unique set of invisible filtered glasses, where filters are composed of all sorts of biases, prejudices, assumptions and beliefs which we gathered throughout our lives. These glasses may skew our view of reality to such an extent that we can see it altogether differently than someone else. Be mindful not to be too quick to judge, nor fall into the trap of feeling as if life owes you something.
Money is not the root of all evil. Neither is it the sum of all blessings. Money is simply a means to an end. A tool. A servant. How we use it, depends on our nature. Just like you can use a hammer to either build a house or smash someone's brains out. Or a knife to cut pieces of bread for hungry children or cut hungry children into pieces.
So the next time you want to accuse someone of being corrupted by money, think long and hard before you do. Maybe you are simply giving him too much credit (pun intended). Perhaps he was already corrupted before, he just tried really hard to prevent anyone from noticing it. Or perhaps he just seems corrupted in your skewed view of the situation. Perhaps the truth is completely different than you can possibly fathom. Perhaps you are (I know, it's scary...) wrong.