Responses to Last Post

I was touched and fascinated to receive many responses to my last post. I have listed some below.It seems the idea of being  part of an illustrious family or having any edge in life affects many of us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

I so empathize with a great deal that you said about your growing up, but I think I may have been more fortunate than you in having had the difference between financial success and success as a person clearly defined for me. I was taught that if you were fortunate enough not to have to earn your daily bread that you had a responsibility to your community to be a responsible and active source for those less fortunate. I also feel inferior because I never had a paid job, but so be it. It’s a bit late now.
   As to defending one’s children; I have always been accused of being a mother tiger, and that will continue until the day I die.

I love what you wrote.  It is candid, caring, and true.  Speaking for
myself, I am mightily impressed by all you have accomplished not because
of your inheritance, but in spite of it.  By example, you have answered
the question of what to do with such a privileged background–with
dignity, integrity, and skill.  You have also faced and conquered many of
the psychological and emotional problems that all of us share as human

And FYI, the notion of “privilege” is relative.  I have always been
embarrassed that I went to a private boarding school, that I got into
Harvard in the days when it was easy, that I learned to read and write
(especially to write) at the feet of true masters.  All that gave me an
unfair head start in the academic rat-race, or so I thought for many
years.  So I glossed over all that stuff, at least in conversation with
colleagues, not wanting to reveal the privileged foundation that was
bestowed upon me by hard-working, hard-drinking, and self-sacrificial

>Your essay on entitlement was brilliant and very moving. In a very minor way I saw somewhat similar problems as a child.  A schoolmate at the Brearley was Barbara Field, daughter of Marshall Field.  Sometimes I would visit with her on her father’s place on Long Island and shield her from the company of spongers who surrounded her.  She married three times, ended her life battling mental disease.  My grandparents were friends of the Frick family and one of the cautionary tales I was told was about “Poor Helen, she never married.  Always suspected that every man was after her money.”  The Depression almost wiped out my family and I never had such a worry.  The names Watson, Frick and Field are names of burden to their children, and I congratulate you on your survival!  You done good.  

I thought this was beautifully written. I agree that few of us middle class guys respect the business successes of our richer born friends. I know in my case when I meet some guy who was born with every advantage and is now a partner at some investment bank etc. I assume he had a running start. For me to respect his success he would have had to achieve it as an entrepreneur or in a non business area-the arts, academia etc. Third most of my friends who are” the children of” seem to have difficulties putting that badge aside. I say “seem” because I can’t know for sure. However many still seem to carry an invisible weight. Finally, and this is personal I always thought I was incredibly lucky to find work I loved and was good at. Growing up in a materialistic middle class Jewish environment I was pushed towards money making professions. I can still remember learning that our local high school hero had cast aside his Yale and Harvard B School degrees to become a rabbi. When I rushed home to tell my parents my mother said, “Billy can afford it. His family is rich…” I know my brother would have been happier working in the Foreign Service or as an academic. I think is still true today that most middle class parents ask their children to pursue the work that will make them happiest. As a result their children often don’t ask themselves the most important question. I never asked the question and was lucky that the question didn’t matter. Finally the other thing I learned from your blog is that you write better than I do.

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