Does Prosperity Make Monsters Of Us?

In a recent post I talked about how we all view success differently: how the way you perceive success is most likely far different than how I would. It’s definitely a subjective term. Now let’s take it a step further.

Continuing on the path of subjectivity (I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know that was a real word until today), every Tuesday in our English class we discuss a new quote, usually one from a famous poet or author whose works we’re reading. Yesterday’s was one from a Victor Hugo, a 19th century French poet, novelist, and dramatist. It reads:

“Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.”

I don’t know about that.

I get what Hugo’s saying: when people let wealth and fame get to their heads they become consumed by greed, while those who are faced with adversities and hard times are oftentimes humbled by their shortcomings and are stronger because of them.

I can agree with the adversity bit, but the part about prosperity stuck with me. Is prosperity a dishonest, greedy goal to strive for? Is it really all that inherently evil?

Well, like so many things in life, it depends on how you look at it. The way look at it, is there really anything “bad” about being prosperous? About being rewarded for what you worked for?

I mean, it wouldn’t make much sense if someone were to face a whole slew of adversities, then be rewarded with even more adversities, right? It’s like finishing a snowman you worked on for hours, then having someone come along and knock it down. And every time you build it up, they’re there to push it over again. A constant cycle of adversities which, according to Hugo, makes you a man.

So I don’t think prosperity’s something to avoid, and I think everyone will agree; that is, if handled with care. Because it definitely is a double-edged sword that can certainly be abused when in the wrong hands. We see examples of this all the time, whether from celebrities, professional athletes, or even our family and friends. Someone reaches a new social standing or position of wealth and suddenly feels the need to flaunt their accomplishments and oftentimes ends up letting it all go to their head and doing something they’ll later regret.

I think that’s what Hugo was getting at. I don’t entirely agree with his quote, but that’s the beauty of subjectivity, isn’t it? I might find what I think are loopholes in his logic, yet you might passionately disagree with me. So what do you think about Hugo’s observation? Utter nonsense, words right out of the gospel, or a mix of both?

Image by Maklay62 from Pixabay


11 thoughts on “Does Prosperity Make Monsters Of Us?

  1. You have this beautiful talent of writing. I’m saying beautiful because your posts simply are beautiful. Thought provoking as well as beautifully written. Nothing different with this one. Keep it going, Jake!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate the support Nikesh, and I’m glad you stumbled across my site! I’ve always had a passion for writing, and it’s good to hear some positive feedback about it, I’ll take it whenever I can get it! Thanks for reading!

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  2. On the biblical standpoint, the “love of money” (not “money”, itself) is said to be the “root cause of ALL evil”. With that, we can also say that “prosperity” in relation to “money”, in a way, do have the power to make anybody a “monster”,in a sense that the pursuit of prosperity (given the tough route towards it) may blind people or numb their sense and sensibilities and turn them into ferocious beings who would trample at or devour any apparent opposition.

    However, we CAN’T say that ALL people trying their best to be prosperous will in turn become monsters eventually. No. They would most certainly be, IF, and only if, they allow themselves to be subdued by the lust to WANT MORE.

    GREED is the word; and greed is filthy EVIL. We were born into this world with nothing (as Man, in its purest sense — no clothes, no name, no status, nothing yet, only a living thing) then as we acquire more in life, we eventually are being transformed into someone different from our original BEING (we acquire titles, wealth, status, power, material possessions, etc.) And I think somewhere along that point is where the crucial play happens — the advancement in material possession is a vital FACTOR in this so called transformation from a simple Man into somewhat a “Monster”. We are all eternal beings, we have something innate in us which is INSATIABLE in this world, that explains why most people find it so hard to be content. We want more and we can’t explain why? By definition, prosperity varies from person to person, depending on their desired level to achieve. But when a desire for prosperity gives birth to GREED, that’s where something “unpleasurable” comes out.

    That’s my humble view about “prosperity make monsters”. I don’t know how Hugo would have put it in order to be easily understood or where’s he’s coming from in writing the quote. Anyways, it is really a nice subject for discussion 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely agree with you there Andrei. There’s supposedly seven basic “character flaws” or “dark personality traits” that we all have the capability of possessing, that being arrogance, greed, martyrdom, self-depreciation, self-destruction, impatience, and stubbornness, and I can’t help but feel that greed is the most powerful, most consuming of all. I feel that becoming utterly fixated on the sole goal of attaining “more” of anything, not just wealth or social status, is unhealthy for both that individual and the people close to them. I see what you’re saying, and I can agree that the prospect of prosperity can oftentimes be a segue to greed. I think this is what Hugo was truly getting at, just without actually coming out and saying it. Glad you joined the discussion, I’m thinking of making this a new series, there’s a never-ending plethora of quotes out there- some pretty controversial- and I think it’d be interesting to discuss the meaning of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is what quotes are for…giving you something to think about…and to discuss. You will always find truth in them, because you will recognize the wellknown wisdom they want to tell you. But, because we are all different, and we all have different experiences…we will find them more or less “true”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I might not agree with everything Hugo said, but I agree with you there! They’re pieces of wisdom capable of standing the tests of both time and the scrutiny and criticism of future generations. We all gain something from them, whether it be valuable insight or a chance to share with others your own opinion and have a good discussion. Thanks for dropping by Leya!

      Liked by 1 person

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