Champagne Taste, Kool-Aid Money

“…all who want to get rich manage to do so. That scandalizes people who have dreamed of having money, and who do not have any. They looked at the mountain; but it just waited for them. Money, like every other advantage, demands fidelity above all else. Many people imagine that they want money simply because they must. But money eludes thoses who pursue it simply out of need. People who have made their fortune have done so by striving to dominate something.”

—Emile-Auguste Chartier, “The Ambitious,” in Alain on Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

The Bible puts in more succinctly:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

—Matthew 6:24

And there is the classic Reddit post, regarding winning the lottery. Long story short, winning the lottery will also significantly increase your chances of being a victim of homicide (particularly by a family member), having a drug overdose, going bankrupt, being kidnapped, being convicted of drunk driving, and being a defendant in a civil law suit or in felony criminal proceedings.

All of this suggests that the pursuit of power, fame and money beyond certain minimum thresholds is self-destructive, or at the very least requires hyper-vigilance to the point that it consumes a lot of time and energy. Better to develop Kool-Aid taste and get by with less.

Bushman Money Magic

“Jackal [the Bushman trickster god] had been riding his donkey and grew tired. He decided to stop and cook some meat. When the meat was stewing in his pot, he saw some [cattle ranchers] coming toward him. Quickly he covered the fire with sand so they could not see it.

When the [cattle ranchers] arrived he said to them, ‘Look, you black people, this is a magic pot. It doesn’t need a fire to cook food. You must just hit it three times like this.’

Jackal grabbed his whip and hit the pot three times. Tca-tca-tca! Then he opened it and showed the [cattle ranchers] that the meat was still sizzling hot.

‘I will sell you this magic pot for one thousand dollars,’ said Jackal.

‘This is a wonderful pot,” the [cattle ranchers] conceded. So they gave Jackal a thousand dollars, took the pot and left.

When the [cattle ranchers] had walked for a while, they grew hungry. So they put some raw meat in the pot and hit it three times with a whip. But when they opened it, they saw that the meat was raw. So they hit the pot again. But the meat was still raw.

‘We have been tricked!” they shouted. ‘This Jackal, this Bushman, he is a crook.” So they went back to find the Jackal. When Jackal saw them coming, he was scared. So he quickly took the money they had given him for the pot and hid it in his donkey’s anus.

When they reached the Jackal, the [cattle ranchers] said, ‘Jackal, this pot is not magic. Take it and give us our money back!’

‘I can’t,’ replied Jackal. ‘This pot is yours now. Anyway, I have already spent the money.’

But just as he said this, the donkey farted and all the money tumbled from his backside. For a second Jackal was terrified, but then he smiled.

‘Look at this donkey,’ Jackal said to them. ‘It’s magic because you feed it grass and it will shit money. If you buy this donkey from me for a thousand dollars, it will shit more money for you!’

‘Ah, this is a magic donkey!’ agreed the [cattle ranchers]. So they gave Jackal another thousand dollars. And with the donkey in tow, they went away again. As soon as they were gone, Jackal fled with the money.'”

—/Engn!au quoted in James Suzman, Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushman (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 241-242.