This phrase by Alain de Botton got me thinking:
"In theory, we believe that the primary school teacher is making a more valuable contribution to society than the Victoria's Secret girlfriend of a premier league football player. But our society in general gives much more admiration and respect to the latter."
It does seem that, generally speaking, money and status are indicators of "the good life," more so than more meaningful things.
And, ironically, although many of us profess that money is not the route to happiness, when it comes to judging others, our words may betray some opposing beliefs; beliefs that suggest that those with a materially rich life are less worthy of our compassion and sympathy.
For example, our definition of a "privileged childhood" might be one where the child is brought up by wealthy parents in a luxurious home setting, rather than one where the child is raised by loving and nurturing parents (not of course, that the two are mutually exclusive).
And we might forgive the drug-dealer who grew up on the council estate and fell in with the wrong crowd, but be scathing of the upper-class gentleman, who, because of world he was born into, developed an enthusiasm for fox-hunting.
I can't help but feel that if we claim to attribute little or no intrinsic value to fame and fortune, but are happy to post vicious comments online about Wayne Rooney, and, justify doing so because he is a millionaire and should be able to take it, we are being somewhat of a hypocrite.
To a certain extent of course, money is important. Perhaps the child born into poverty is more worthy of our sympathy than the one born into a comfy middle-class home but with with dysfunctional and emotionally abusive parents. But I think it is at least up for debate.
If we are truly to fly the flag for the belief that goodness and happiness come from much more meaningful things than money, then I think we must show a consistency in these values that carries through to our compassion for others.