Sen. Edward Kennedy: Super Wealthy, Super Privileged, but—

—there was a marvelous contradiction in him. Can you name it? All the commentators are bringing it up.

I once read a scholarly study comparing and contrasting Ted and Jack Kennedy with Richard M. Nixon. The scholarship, I observed at the time, was trustworthy in sources and the conclusions drawn seemed reasonable. The study raised this question. Why would super-rich Kennedys appear so much on the record of speech and legislative action in support of the ordinary 40-hour-a-week worker, the “common man”? Minimum wages guarantee. Unions. Safe work conditions. Health care for all. And so on. Why would Richard Nixon arise from the worker class of ordinary people and claw his way to the top, without much special care for those on the lower rungs of the ladder, never looking back to help those below as he climbed to the top and affiliate himself with the party of the getting and conservation of wealth? Why was the former a liberal (Democrat) and the latter a conservative (Republican)? The Kennedys and Nixon. Different beginnings. A reversal of expected outcomes.

What was the difference? What makes a class of “haves” sure to, or not to, remember the plight of those less favored, or privileged? You may have guessed it. It’s the sure sense of an ideal self, called conscience. Wanting to spread the conditions providing opportunity through native intelligence and work ethic. The ideal self and the internal narrative empathizing the narrative of others underlying the concept of the ideal self is inculcated early in life, taught by a parental model that is permissive, rather than harsh, instructive, rather than preachy, loving, rather than stern, empathic, rather than apathetic.

Praise, or, at best, begrudging recognition for Ted Kennedy may not be coming from the nouveaux riches who have not developed that conscience in the ideal way.

One more thing. I think there are wealthy, and then there are wealthy. All wealthy people are not alike. It might be the difference between being born into wealth, that is, having wealth “thrust” on you, and having to earn the wealth, picking yourself up by your own bootstraps. The latter may feel, without ever expressing it, that, “I did it! Nothing stopping everyone else. I have no special care for those who don’t do it. It’s their own fault.”

The former has it from the start and may feel, without ever expressing it, that “I got it the easy way, and I have an obligation to do what I can to help the less fortunate having rough times getting ahead.”

There may be other classes of the wealthy, but I see those two as the most prominent. What do you think?


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