The Suffering of the Privileged

No matter how wealthy and privileged you are, there’s something fundamentally painful and difficult about the human condition.

Every year, about 45,000 American commit suicide.

Tens of millions of Americans are alcoholics.

Many millions more suffer from severe depression.

And this does not include drug addiction and other severe forms of mental illness.

These are the data for the wealthiest nation on earth, where nearly half of the top 1% of global earners live. These are the data for those who have won the lottery when it comes to material resources and good fortune.

But it’s not enough for many to avoid suffering and misery.

I don’t know who said it, “but everyone is going through a personal battle that you will never understand.”

This is a point that isn’t acknowledged enough. Status competitions matter in a sense, but even those who win the status competitions sometimes suffer to the point of self-destruction.

Who wouldn’t trade career paths with Robin Williams?

No matter how much food we have in the cupboard, no matter how much status we have achieved in our careers, our brains never stop functioning as problem-finding machines. Their job is to perpetually alert us of what is going wrong and even what could go wrong.

Even when we should be thinking about how lucky we are, our brains are not hardwired that way. Even when all is seemingly well, all day they scream out, “Danger! Danger!”

We were designed for the survival of our genes, not contentment in our conscious states. Our minds actively work against any efforts we make to stay happy. Even if you’re 70 years old with a billion dollars in the bank, your mind will still stir on the risk of dying in misery and penury. Life never stops being hard, in that sense.

Until we change the fundamentals of our hardware, that will never change. No matter how much good fortune we might have.