Friday, 9 April 2010

Rich Perspective, Poor Perspective

When I was a teenager, at some point in the mid to late nineties that I can’t recall, my dad had this book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” I remember leafing through it at the time, and the premise was simple. The narrator had two dads, just like in the title, and they each behaved in a certain way and made certain decisions which had an effect on their lives and shaped the economic situations they found themselves in. And the moral of the story was, because the guy learned lessons from and paid attention to and aspired to be his rich dad, he became a rich dad too. Sort of like that Issac Newton quote about how if I had a great vision or a stroke of genius, it’s because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. Using the wisdom of great thinkers and doers before you to accomplish great things, which you then in some way owe them thanks for. I’m a big believer in the quote and I aspire to live up to my ever expanding circle of giants. But apparently, Robert Kiyosaki decided to spin his most famous book into a laughable, quasi-legitimate, fake get rich quick scheme whose ubiquitous ads I see on buses everyday now.

I have been meaning to comment for awhile on how Kisoyaki went from preached wisdom, prudence, sticking to strategy, and sound investment principles in his book to now peddling some garbage he has the gall to call “education”, when a Star investigation found this “education” to involve $500 up front to attend a weekend how to get rich seminar to listen to sales pitches to attend a $12,000 seminar. The Rich Dad himself is of course too preoccupied to debase himself by actually being present, it says right on the ads, but hey, he’ll throw in a free USB key. Not only is this an evident ludicrous waste of time money preying on gullible folks who he assumes presumably have piles of money lying around, it begs the question of who has managed to accumulate enough wealth to pony up for something like this and stay dumb enough at the same time to believe it? The question that befuddles me is how, to borrow one of my favourite lines of my stepmothers, there are still people with more money than brains, given everything we know today.

If you have or have had the patience to read my exasperation and annoyance with our ineptness and stupidity in front of the mammoth problems humanity faces in the postings heretoforth, I will tell you that it comes from the fact that I am not saying or doing anything new and my conclusions and observations are hardly restricted to 2010. Will I take the valuable lessons I’ve absorbed and tried to share with others in the past, and put them to dubious and exploitative uses like Kiyosaki? Because he may still be a rich dad but he’s conducting himself poorly. The perspective of others may have made my perspective richer, but I could just throw it all away and become a pothead or a sweatshop owner or anything, really. Why shouldn’t I just be in it for myself like the rich dad when I see the lessons we have failed to learn from the others who have said it so much better than me? Why choose to have a rich perspective? What am I talking about?

For men without “jobs” may be still be productive and creative members of society; indeed, in the future, they may be among the most productive and creative. If we manage to change our attitude toward the Gross National Product and realize that it ought to include health, brains and creativity then we may begin to use our resources properly. Until now they have been wasted shamelessly: the nation sickly because of its lack of a comprehensive medical scheme, its brainpower half used because of a university program that caters to the upper class, its creative artists stifled because of a narrow, bookkeeping attitude as to what constitutes “work”
-Pierre Berton, “The Smug Minority”, 1968

Have we learned from Mr. Berton’s wise words in 42 years? Yes, health care came into being, but it is expensive and problem riddled. Yes, more people attend university than ever before, but with back breaking debt and often bleary job prospects when they get out. Two pertinent observations that could be fairly made is that there have been great movements, but we are far from perfect. However, if you stop nitpicking and actually look at the argument, we have learned nothing. Zero. Zilch. Faster, Cheaper, Bigger, Better, Crazier, Higher Tech. With absolutely no regard to the cost. We are Pavlovs dogs whose bell is 3% GDP growth a year, 8% on Mutual Funds a year, 5% on Real Estate a year. As long as we hear those things we feel safe and secure to go into debt and spend money and trust the government and companies and free trade. Even when simple logic and a closer inspection reveals the facts, not secrets, that not only is it doomed to fail but noone knows or realizes the real cost?

…a close inspection of our countryside would reveal, strewn over it from one end to the other, thousands of derelict and worthless automobiles, house trailers, refirgerators, stoves, freezers, washing machines, and dryers; as well as thousands of unregulated dumps in hollows and sinkholes, on streambanks and roadsides, filled not only with “disposable” containers but also with broken toasters, TV sets, toys of all kinds, furniture, lamps, stereos, radios, scales, coffee makers, mixers, blenders, corn poppers, hair dryers, and microwave ovens. Much of our waste problem is to be accounted for by the intentional flimsiness and unrepairability of the labour savers and gadgets we have become addicted to…The truth is that we Americans, all of us, have become a kind of human trash, living our lives in the midst of a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpetrators. We are all unwilling victims, perhaps, and some of us even are unwilling perpetrators, but we must count ourselves among the guilty nonetheless.

Wendell Berry, “Waste”, 1989

And what have we learned in 21 years from Mr. Berry’s moving, astute observations. Nothing! We are three bubbles, two recessions, and a whole bunch of kajillions dollars deeper in debt as nations and consumers, not the mention the waste and useless consumption that has resumed unabated. I also stumbled upon an excellent section of Naomi Klein’s No Logo, famous bestseller, yes, but deep inside beneath the scathing indictments of brands is an excellent, firsthand report on life in EPZs (export processing zones). So reading about the “recovery” to start pouring our money back into “China’s red hot economy” which is made up of 1 in 13 residents slogging away in these, well, concentration camps, has led me to believe that the vast majority of us have chosen the poor perspective. Although I continue to be fascinated by USB keys.

1 comment:

  1. The Kiyosaki scam is a shame, because his credibilty takes a big hit, in my opinion. The principles in his books, Rich Dad Poor Dad and The Cashflow Quadrant are solid and now he seems like a bad joke.