The Human Emotion More Deadly Than Cancer
More men die of jealousy than die of cancer, said Joseph Kennedy.
Today, a brief reflection on that ignoble but staggeringly human emotion…
It is said a man is jealous of his betters.
But it is only partly true.
The average man harbors no jealousy for the great man.
He is not jealous of the Alexanders… the Caesars… the Napoleons of this world.
These are men stamped from a finer metal… and the average man gracefully acknowledges it is not his metal.
The sparrow understands its place is not among the eagles.
No, the subject of the average man’s jealousy is his peer — the average man.
The average man is not jealous of the (1997–2010) Tiger Woods who won 14 majors… but the guy in his weekend foursome who once broke 80.
He is not jealous of the Brad Pitt who scores the supermodel… but the insurance salesman who lands the pleasant-looking gal he himself set his cap for.
Nor is the average man jealous of a Warren Buffett with his billions… but the middle-class fellow down the street who’s moving up to a nicer neighborhood.
The Sage of Baltimore — H.L. Mencken — once defined a wealthy man as “a fellow who earns $100 more than his wife’s sister’s husband.”
Be assured… the wife’s sister’s husband feels that $100 keenly.
Today, we hazard that a new form of jealousy is sweeping the American landscape:
Here we have the largest boom in history — greater than even the “tulip mania” that sent Holland into delirium 400 years ago.
Tens of thousands have become “crypto-millionaires.”
Many of them are “the average man.”
His fellow average man — his bitterest rival — must suffer accordingly.
His enemy prospers beyond the dreams of avarice… for simply being lucky.
It is one thing for the titans of finance to make their millions with their plots and their deals.
But a co-worker… a neighbor… heaven forbid, a friend?
The injustice burns him as acid burns him… and corrodes him from within:
Who’s this guy to get so rich for doing nothing? He has no special talents. He was simply lucky.
Do you really think some taxi driver who acted on a damn fool tip he got at 3 a.m. from a drunk techie knew what he was doing?
Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of 1,000 that tip leads him to ruin. He had no way of knowing it would make him rich. Meanwhile, I’ll be lucky if I ever retire.
This is the lament, eternal in its way, of the jealous man.
We certainly understand.
A man puts in decades of hard labor and barely scratches by.
Meantime, a 23-year old, fresh from college, puts down few hundred dollars, or a few thousand, and a few short years later he’s in clover for life.
Well and truly… the gods are capricious.
Of course, we are told that money doesn’t buy happiness.
We have our doubts — and we’d gladly submit the theory to personal trial — but that is the wisdom the ages have handed us.
Perhaps we would all do well to take the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus to heart:
“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy”…