To the editors:
I am not wealthy, but I understand rules of basic human interaction well enough to recognize the downright offensiveness of James K. McAuley’s Mar. 8 editorial comment, “Friends With Money.”
The article contends that spoiled, “affluent” students should not downplay their wealthy origins because maintaining a “veneer of more frugal circumstances” is “insulting.” Instead, in McAuley’s idyllic fantasy, wealthy students should have no qualms about showing off at every opportunity.
McAuley seems to have missed the point of being a Harvard student: learning to exist within and learn from an incredibly diverse group of individuals. He conflates wealthy students’ actions with attempts to experience “what it’s like” to be on a budget—an essentialism that is, in most instances, entirely incorrect.
The reason that many wealthy students don’t brag openly about their financial security is because it alienates their friends. Minimizing the impact of wealth differences among friends is crucial for sustaining community. Yes, some students can afford taking a taxi rather than the T, but does that mean they should abandon their friends and take the cab? Please.
McAuley’s proposal would reify class divisions and obliterate any chance of cross-class interaction. Dismissing the entire issue with a misreading of F. Scott Fitzgerald, a relegation of the “rich” to impenetrable unknowability, is recipe for disaster. Difference exists, but in situations in which its danger can be minimized without any costs—like adhering to social norms of modesty—there is no excuse to perpetuate it. Not even out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness.
Will Rafey, ‘13
Mar. 9, 2010
William Rafey ’13 lives in Greenough Hall.