entirely foolish and entirely wise
September 8, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: , ,


I have an uncle who said, curiously, that he wanted to die poor.  Materially poor, which he did, but we suspect he died rich in other ways.

The Victorian writer John Ruskin set down some observations on the different characteristics of rich and poor below.  In his view, the rich have hedging characteristics:  they are sure and unthinking etc “generally speaking.”  The poor, on the other hand go headlong into their roles:  “entirely foolish … entirely wise.”

This is our accepted generalizing narrative about class in our time:  the hedging rich find it hard to fully live; and the committed poor are all in.

From Ruskin’s essay:

The persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive and ignorant.  The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief and the entirely merciful just and godly person.

Unto This Last (1862), John Ruskin