Donald Clarke: Pity the rich and their wealth of first-world problems

‘I’m betting people like me are immune to this class of wealth-generated depression’

Does money make you happy? Does it really? If I were to shout this at any average human as I passed them in my Lamborghini, they would be within their rights to gather friends, set light to torches and hunt me to a deserved death. Stick my decapitated head on a pole. Dance ritually around it. I would have earned my fate.

There are very few people in this country who could not be made happier by the elimination of a debt or the alleviation of some other materialistic misery. There are fewer still in most other nations.

That said, we should not be too hard on poor Markus Persson. The games programmer generated headlines last week aftertweeting about the misery that mega-wealth brings.

“Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I’ve never felt more isolated,” he posted. Nobody’s idea of a fool, Markus had further thoughts on the philosophical mechanics of his melancholy. “The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.”


Terminally lazy

I’m betting people like me are probably immune to this class of wealth-generated depression. I’m certainly willing to take the risk if any of you has a spare billion.

Being terminally lazy and pathologically uninterested in the company of others, I would embrace the impossibility of "human interaction" and the opportunity to no longer "keep trying". Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a writer I normally get on well with) once suggested Hell might be "nothing more than a room with a chair in it". That sounds all right to me. Then again, I am an only child.

"Notch" Persson is, by way of contrast, a highly driven man. Now 36, raised in Stockholm, he is the principal creator of the ingenious, sui generis Minecraft . A lovely invention, which has endless educational possibilities, the "sandbox" game invites players to build constructions out of virtual cubes. You can use the software to explore solitary architectural ambitions. A survival mode forces you to manage limited resources.

Online versions bring enthusiasts together to collaborate or compete. In short, it's super-awesome and Notch deserves every cent of the $2.5 billion that Microsoft paid for it.

We have seen more than a few heirs and heiresses come to sticky chemical and automotive ends. But the misery of the poor little rich kid tends to have a different flavour to that which sometimes attacks the self-made man or woman.

Howard Hughes was always eccentric, but it seems unlikely he would have descended into full-on paranoia had he remained as commonplace wealthy as his father. If you are driven to ever-greater triumphs, there can be no more dispiriting place to sit than the apex of life's great curve. Alexander is said to have wept because there were no more worlds left to conquer. The rest of us would have sighed with relief and had a nice cup of tea. Then again, the rest of us would have given up after Battle of the Granicus. Those remaining worlds can conquer themselves, thank you very much.

Markus's tweets do, however, get at a more general human malaise. We are born to worry. No starving person will fret much about whether university administrators have placed "trigger warnings" in copies of Jane Eyre. People who really have life-threatening illnesses don't bother with the imaginary ailments that affect the worried well. When, however, meaningful concerns about health and financial security are tidied away, the vigorous rich person will construct recreational neuroses to ward off looming contentment. If you're Persson, you'll worry about having nothing to worry about. Mind you, he is Swedish. Strindberg? Bergman? Those chaps knew a thing or two about misery.

Too ‘street’

We will say just a little about Anthony Horowitz’s comments concerning

Idris Elba

and then leave the subject to wither. The British writer has, after all,

for saying the black actor was a little too “street” to play

James Bond


I was not the only person to point out that Sean Connery, the son of a factory worker, was raised in the solidly working-class Edinburgh suburb of Fountainbridge. Street enough for you, Horowitz?

Anyway, the controversy does give us an opportunity to wonder at the way Elba has been anointed as Bond-in-waiting. It is certainly reasonable for the modern 007 – as opposed to the imperial racist of the books – to be recast as a black man. But it won’t be Elba. Craig is not going anywhere for a few years and Idris turns 43 on Sunday. Time to stop speculating on this one.