Why are we Turning the Internet into a Battlefield of Greed?

On paycheck porn, money braggarts, and their impact of society

Photo via Flickr

Look at the kind of copy popular online and you’ll soon realize America doesn’t believe the principle it was founded on.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

If that were the case and we all believed we were equals, would anyone still feel the need to boast about how much they earn and have to garner attention, praise, and plaudits? And — because this is the internet where every click pays — more money?

“Look at me,” they say, “this is how much I’m worth.”

In a country where capitalism, individualism, and greed run the show, peddling such copy is a surefire way to get paid. Because people flock when someone flashes their cash, why wouldn’t they?

With money for nothing and the clicks for free, why would anyone ever be in dire straits? Passing off being brazenly grabby as inspirational isn’t about equality but about how money confers extra worth upon a human.

Money, we’re being told, is what elevates humans to superior status.

Paycheck porn is the new celebrity status.

Rather than our contribution to the common good, the numbers at the bottom of our paychecks and bank statements are what commands respect.

More money is always the goal and it doesn’t matter what one has to do to get it.

Exploiting the gullibility of fellow humans searching for a way to pull themselves out of hardship is fair game. Anyone who believes money has turned them into a role model becomes a dab hand at monetizing the desperation of those of lesser means.

In a country that worships the 19th letter of the Modern English alphabet adorned with two vertical strokes, being poor is a cardinal sin. As evidenced by the absence of universal health care or affordable education that would give everyone a fair chance at being and doing their best, there’s zero support and scant sympathy for those who struggle.

When you’re poor in America, it simply means not trying hard enough, a ruthless, unforgiving, and dehumanizing philosophy that makes monsters of us all.

Value is no longer principle nor quality but a literal dollar figure on which people base their self-worth.

And as the internet well knows, the poor are a lucrative market for those enterprising enough to tap into it. The shackles of slavery may have become invisible but the economic model endures. Ask anyone earning a living in the gig economy, or getting paid by the micro task.

Or even freelancing.

They will show you extreme and unsustainable work ethics and a harsh reality subject to the constant threat of impending burnout.

When culture dictates human worth is contingent on bank balance, internalizing this belief is a lot easier than pushing back and raging against the fraying moral fabric of the society we live in.

Especially when you’re too busy trying to survive.

The measure of a human isn’t a figure on a piece of paper.

And yet, there is nothing about American life that doesn’t have a price tag.

Even immigration is the preserve of those who can find a way to afford it, and the same goes for naturalization, which is getting more and more expensive and thus inaccessible to those of lesser means.

“Give me your tired, your poor…” read the words of the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal but America long ago ceased to try and abide by the lofty humanist ideals it ripped off from Voltaire and friends.

And in the age of Trump, there’s no pretense anymore.

Any measure remotely designed not to leave anyone behind is being gutted. The Affordable Care Act is on life support, cash-strapped Americans have to make do with field hospitals run by volunteers to see a dentist, whether it’s in Appalachia or in Seattle.

Meanwhile, GoFundMe has become the largest insurance company in the nation as the sick are forced to market their distress not to die. It has become so normalized no one bats an eyelid anymore.

Fellow feeling has all but evaporated.

Instead, connection, togetherness, and solidarity are being turned into consumer goods, eroding the very foundations of the society we live in.

If all men are indeed created equal as the Founding Fathers intimated, America still has to accept this truth as self-evident some 243 years later.

But it’s never too late.

What if instead of turning the internet into a hamster wheel for egocentrics, we used it as a force for the common good?

Financial grandiloquence does nothing to advance equality but refusing to be reduced to a dollar figure — or pay people to hear them tell us how much they make — might.

We are one another’s only true wealth.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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