Affluenza: Disease of the Nigerian rich
I am sorry to have disappointed many readers who called after reading last week’s piece on cougars and toy boys. Another unwritten law in writing is that writers should respect their readers. As I tell people, reading is not an easy thing to do for most people in a harsh socioeconomic environment. So it is with due respect that I repeat I do not run a cougar agency or know one.
What we do in this column is to paint the reality of life to you, and make you better equipped to handle life’s challenges. In other words, it is about the understanding of human nature. For example, if a woman, many times your age, has a crush on you, you now better understand why she does.
Surprisingly, with all that Funke Egbemode said on the back page of the paper the week before I wrote about the subject, highlighting the risks involved, it would seem many of those who called would do it of the money. Hmmmm!
Well, what is new this week? We know that the rich also cry. They do. But that is only a small manifestation of the many things they suffer quietly. Rich people all over the world have a common debilitating disease. It is called affluenza, and it will be discussed exhaustively here to enhance the understanding of the behaviour of the rich and to know how we relate with them.
Check this out! A man’s wife was very ill and needed to be rushed to the hospital. Short of money, he runs to a rich man in their neighbourhood for financial assistance. After listening to the crying man’s story, he just dismissed him with the excuse that he had spent the little he had to spare the day before. He did not even look at the poor man’s face, which perhaps could have moved him.
You may also be aware that while many rich men spend lavishly on vanities, they pay little attention to their drivers and house helps. Now, if you are wondering why this happens, it is because, as studies have found out, more money, less empathy or compassion. We will return to this later.
I used to have a great boss, who in absurd situations would say, “Ah, Peter (his name) I have suffered!” Then I wondered how a director of a big company could be suffering. If he did, then junior staff were be dead.
Recently I behaved like my former boss when I read what is reproduced below: “In December 2013, State District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced a North Texas teenager, Ethan Couch to 10 years probation for drunk driving and killing four pedestrians and injuring 11 after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from affluenza (though in this case, the lawyer used the term ‘affluenza’ to mean that Couch was unable to understand the consequences of his actions because of his financial privilege) and needed rehabilitation, and not prison. The defendant was witnessed on surveillance stealing beer from a store, driving with seven passengers in a Ford-350 stolen from his father, speeding (70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone), and had a blood alcohol content of 0.24%, three times the legal limit for an adult in Texas, when he was tested 3 hours after the accident. Traces of Valium were also in his system. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist hired as an expert by the defense, testified in court that the teen was a product of affluenza and was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege.
“The rehabilitation facility near Wichata Falls, Texas, that the teen will be attending will cost roughly $700 a day; however Couch will be paying only a portion of that. At a February 5, 2014 hearing, Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed in the crash, said “Had he not had money to have the defense there, to also have the experts testify, and also offer to pay for the treatment, I think the results would have been different.”
Chai, I have suffered! But truly, one of the problems of some rich men, certainly not all of them, is that their children are spoilt.
So what is affluenza? Affluenza is a combination of the English words “affluence” (which means wealth) and “influenza” (the flu.) The Oxford English Dictionary defines affluenza as “a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.” The term became popular in the late 1990s after the publication of The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence by Jessie O’Neil.
O’Neill is the granddaughter of a past president of General Motors. Since the book was written, it has also been used to describe a condition in which children — generally from richer families — have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behaviour, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol, explained Dr. Gary Buffone, a Jacksonville, Florida, psychologist who does family wealth advising.
Lately, affluenza has become an interesting subject worldwide. It exists in Nigeria too. So don’t believe everything you see. For example, wealth is no guarantee for happiness or love, which many rich men cannot get.