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A Paean to Superficialty




We all know this, and for us who are less than spectacular looking and on the wrong side of the Bill Gates scale, it makes for a very warm fuzzy feeling inside.

However, being by nature a contrary, difficult and just plain contradictory person who also happens to have a very healthy disrespect for what “everyone” knows, I wonder about this.

By Wambui Mwangi

You see, it occurs to me that actually, beauty is not skin deep, nor are wealth and happiness unconnected.


This is what I was thinking. Beautiful people you see, are able to be nice people too — they have the choice of being beautiful inside as well, and a lot better chance of achieving it.


Since beauty attracts other people who want to be with them, people who want to be seen with them, people who want to be their friends and people who want to give them things.


Not to mention it being easier to find jobs if you are pleasing to the eye as well as possessing a modicum of intelligence -  they really have an easier time of life than more ordinary looking people.


Thus, it stands to reason that, in the main, they have less cause to feel envious, deprived, desperate, lonely, friendless or underappreciated.


In which happy state, it is much easier to be nicer to other people than say if you looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame and didn’t have a chance to be nice to other people simply because no one ever got close enough to you to find out if you were nice or not.


Really, there is something to this, I think, that might warrant some attention. Beautiful people get lots of attention from both (or other) genders.


They get invited to all sorts of glamorous events. And, if the world of the supermodel is anything to go by, or indeed the rather facile standards of Hollywood and other entertainment industries, beauty is also a material as well as a moral asset.


So is fame, but that is another story.

As for wealth, it may not buy happiness, but it surely can get rid of a lot of sources of unhappiness.
Here’s a few just off the top of my head:


Hunger, lack of access to very good medical care, lack of access to influential people whom you need to get things done, inability to get bureaucracies working for you, inability to help people you love, inability to purchase things you want, like or need.


In addition, rich people often do not have to deal with the sorts of annoyances that plague and stress the rest of us — they simply hire minions to do it.


Not to mention that frankly, their money is worth more. I do not mean just that they have more money than you and me, but that their money is actually worth more than yours and mine.


The dollar or Euro or the Pound Sterling of a rich person is worth a lot more than the Euro or dollar or pound of a not-rich person.




Because if you and rich person x want to buy say, a really wonderful Ming Dynasty vase (ha! In your dreams)…if you manage to do it at all, you will have to have saved for about fifty years, and it is highly probably that this is the only such purchase you will ever make in your life.


Whereas, for the rich person x, this is a person who is buying the vase on the way to buying another Rolls Royce, another mansion and possibly a couple of flawless diamonds.


The thing is, the owner of the Ming vase shop knows that he will never see you again. He also knows, that if he plays his cards right, he will be the enviable position of being the Ming vase supplier of choice to rich person x.


He also knows that x is an opinion maker, so if he buys from this particular shop or person, his rich friends will follow suit.


So, to cement the relationship, he will probably give the vase to rich person x at a ridiculous discount, and perhaps even let him have it for completely free.


Because you see, the rich person’s money is not just ONE Pound or Dollar, but stands backed in the seller’s imagination by millions others, so that it itself, is considered to be about a million times more valuable than yours.


Behind yours stands…..nothing. So you pay full price, because you do not have the capacity to leverage your dollar into more than it is worth.


Plus then, of course, rich people have the capacity to be more spectacularly generous, to more people, to more effect - think Oprah Winfrey and her charitable deeds - than other people, and to feel the corresponding satisfaction.


It is quite easy to be generous when one is rich--less easy if your generosity comes at some personal loss or pain to oneself.

Having said all this, of course there are a lot of incredibly nasty, lonely, greedy, unhappy people who are beautiful or rich, or in many cases (and unsurprisingly) both.


But both you and I know those charmed individuals who are almost innocent in their approach to the world, since they’ve never had to ask for anything, or feel unloved, or ask for attention, or see anything ugly, or deal with unpleasantness, or face any of those things that for the rest of us, if they do not kill us, simply make us tired and stressed.


It is not true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger — whoever thought of that should try contracting a debilitating disease.


To finish this paean to superficiality, let me also add that charisma, and charm and wit and intelligence and generosity are also beautiful — and they show on the skin too, and they are forms of wealth that is moral but can lead to the material sort.

My point: Beauty and Wealth matter. They matter a lot.


But of course, what is beautiful, and what is wealth are a source of infinite and satisfyingly diverse possibilities, opinions and taste.


Mwangi is an assistant professor of Politics at the University of Toronto, Canada. She blogs as Mad Kenyan Woman


Do you agree with Mwangi or think money and beauty are of less importance than the inner person?


Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com


Beauty and Wealth matter: They matter a lot!

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