I love the crap out of rich people. RG has helped show me that. Meeting dozens and dozens of wealthy people, each and every one who is smart, thoughtful, and wanting so badly to do right by the world—time and time again, I am bowled over by the sheer magnitude of kindness and generosity in this community.
And organizing RG’s base has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on. Y’all are a tough crowd! For good reason. Pretty much every message in the world tells wealthy people to run away from coming together and from envisioning a more connected, community-based, “less-is-more” kind of world.
Personally, I’m no exception. I love my job, and the people I work with… and, it is still a huge struggle for me to stay committed to being deeply involved with my community of young people with wealth.
As a young person, I’m being told the world is my oyster, and I should be testing the water on all sorts of fronts—parts of me want to forgo all commitments (like to RG and organizing with rich people) and run away. Parts of me are sick of examining my own privilege and reminding myself and others that rich people have a strategic and important role to play—at times the work feels unsexy, uncool, and boring. Parts of me want to keep a lot of the money I inherited “just in case” I decide I want to take time off from paid work, or I wake up one day and realize I do “need” a suburban house with a yard and no mortgage. Some days I really think I might.
Y’all in the RG community (and I mean you all—young and older, wealthy and middle and working class alike) help remind me why I try to stay committed to organizing—and being organized as—young people with wealth. Its not always easy, as everyone knows, to stick with something—or anything—for the long haul. It’s deep! But it’s the people at RG and the commitment you express that keep me here. It keeps me grounded. Hear that? At the end of the day, you all keep me grounded!
And I wanted to share a few trends I’ve learned about us over my past few years of organizing in this community of young wealthy folks. They are broad generalizations, but… any of them resonate for you? (I see myself reflected in most of them, whether I like to admit it or not.)
- As rich people, we’re often told we are self-sufficient and should get everything done by ourselves. No interdependency required if we can buy everything we need! So we easily forget to ask for help or lean on each other—despite intellectually knowing that this is how you really get close to people and really build community.
- Most of us haven’t been taught how to depend on other people. Like really depend. We haven’t been forced to need other people and seen them come through for us, so this makes it hard for us to build trusting relationships and not be afraid to get messy. (I hope you’ve gotten the memo that social change is gonna be messy).
- We’re encouraged to travel the world and not put down roots. We’re not forced to get a job. It’s been modeled for us that we are entitled to not have to stick with commitment, so we have trouble building deep relationships, and sticking with a community, people and places.
- We think we’re exceptional and always have an “out” of anything we dive into or tinker with. We can change our minds on anything if we have the money to pay for the fallout, so we back out when stuff feels hard, can’t seem to plan ahead, or change our minds about what we want.
- We have the endless privilege and burden of having anything we want (that money can buy)… so we think whatever particular project we are involved in, or whatever we want to see through, is the most important. We have trouble trusting the thinking of other people in what to prioritize or what is best for the community or movement as a whole.
- Most of us haven’t been taught that living in a world with such vast wealth disparity, and being cut off from the majority of humanity as the people at “the top” is terrible for us… so a lot of folks in RG easily forget that we are doing this work for ourselves. We forget that we get to reclaim connection, relationships and work.
- We forget how important social change is for our own well-being… so it’s easy for wealthy people to run away from RG, like it’s easy to run away from lots of things in our lives.
Often people will say that RG’s work is different from marginalized people fighting for justice. Those folks are dedicated to the fight because a “win”—say, affordable healthcare—would have a direct positive affect on their lives. At RG, some people assume our fighting is optional. We can choose to confront our privilege, we can choose to go against the grain of wealth accumulation and capitalism, or we can choose to walk away. We can choose to leave the fight, no skin off our back.
Well, sure. It’s very true that our lives are not literally on the line. I’m not out to pretend like there’s the same urgency behind making better lives for rich people as there is for communities being slammed by injustice.
But I am out to say that there is some urgency behind it. It is absolutely necessary that there is a big, healthy dose of positive transformation for wealthy folks in order to build the world we all want to see. Transformation that means grounding in our humanity as generous, symbiotic, social beings that are at our best when everyone is taken care of well.
This transformation is a BIG project. This takes time, love, commitment, and thoughtfulness. This means not moving every six months, so we can actually build relationships with people (wealthy or not) around us. This transformation means remembering to prioritize attention to the RG community, and reminding other wealthy people how important this type of work is. It looks like deconstructing and reconstructing our perceptions of reality and our creative imaginations, envisioning a world in which we feel awesome about ourselves, where we get to be dependent on and close to and trusting of all sorts of other people, and get to learn from all the brilliant minds that we’ve been divided from for so long.
So, I love the heck out of organizing rich kids (yep, I said it). Getting to figure this out and fight for it is one of the most incredible and personally-satisfying projects I’ve ever taken on.
Do me a favor, young people with wealth: challenge yourself to be organizable. Challenge yourself to become an organizer and leader in this community yourself. Open up to it and let it in. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:
- Respond to the doodle poll: Scheduling things to happen is not to be underestimated!
- Ask for help: What do you need? A more socially-conscious financial adviser to shift your investments? Guidance for creating a giving plan? Support to introduce the idea of non-family board members to your family foundation? Reach out to the RG community—there is so much expertise.
- Offer help: We all have so many experiences and so much expertise in different areas. When someone sends a question out over a listserv that you can help answer, respond!
- Stick it out: Everyone has a lot on their plate and we should all be trying to pick quality over quantity (see next bullet). But once you commit, really commit. Joined a Praxis group? Then do your darndest to make it the best it can be, whether you’re brand new or a primary facilitator. No one responding to the email about scheduling your next meeting? Send out a reminder! Don’t let it slide, even if it gets hard. And see bullet #2—don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Slow down: Don’t take on too much. No matter how excited you are, adopting 100 projects will devalue your ability to do any of them well. Outside RG, this looks like committing to a few organizations or causes and diving deep into the role you play. Inside RG, this looks like committing to a few projects and then going for them full-throttle.
- Work with others: Everyone has so many fabulous ideas about what we can do at RG, and its gonna take a lot of different perspectives—definitely not just from wealthy folks—to make RG’s work the best it can be.
- Remember the person or people who have inspired you, and be that to someone. Talk to somebody new about why you’re involved.
- Remember how much this community means to you, and remember to stay in the fight. It’s for you!
Thanks for unraveling the challenges and the actions to take here, and thank you for all the soul you bring to your work. I have to say that I considered doing the job you do many years back, but it looked really hard and too urban for my farmy self, but I am so grateful that you stepped forward. It is a brave act to be public every day about having wealth. I hope we get to connect up here in western Mass. some time.
This article is right on, thanks Jessie. You really hit the nail on the head about some of the unique challenges that we as people of high-level privilege face, and what we can do about it. I love it! I wish I could be more involved with RG. I’m not sure there’s a local group, though.
Beautifully written! I feel inspired, motivated, and calmer thanks to your advice and observations. Thanks!
Beautifully written. Today, this part is especially on my mind: “Remember the person or people who have inspired you, and be that to someone. Talk to somebody new about why you’re involved.” Your words will be echoing in my mind all week Jessie!
I am grateful to the people who were patient with me, who asked me hard questions, who gave me the space to grow and trusted that I would. Cisco, Gina, Beatriz, Cameron, Maricela, Cherrie Moraga–what a challenge to recreate that transformative experience for others?
I believe that agitation—or challenging others to be true to what they deeply believe and want—is the most transformational love. As I learned from bell hooks, love is work. Thank you for doing that work in community, Jessie.