Writing “Have Not” reminded me how convenient it is to have Google. In describing the opulent lifestyle of Philip, Bernard and the others living in Hăven, I needed to reference some real-world baubles of the rich and famous. A few Google searches, and I discovered one of the most expensive wines, the elegance of vicuna pants and the extravagance of a Peugeot Onyx sofa. None of these things, by the way, are to be found in my home.
Lifestyles of the obscenely wealthy aside, “Have Not” revisits the theme in “Coveting Fields,” but in a different way. “Coveting Fields” had Ella desperate to possess something owned by her neighbor, Lila. “Have Not” looks at it from the other direction: the obsession of holding a station in life where others covet you and what you have, and how that obsession influences our society.
“Have Not” is really about power. We all crave it to some degree. It’s why people climb corporate ladders, or run for political office, or thump their chests while demeaning others on social media. But the truth is, power only matters when someone else doesn’t have it. Comparing ourselves to those who fall behind is how we measure our journey to acquiring power.
It’s also worth noting that the journey isn’t especially long for many of the people in power. They inherit their station, or they benefit from privilege. They possess power with little effort and no compelling reason to use it for good. As the prophet Haggai writes, “You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
My PR work with nonprofits serving low-income populations partly inspired “Have Not.” I came to realize that a lot of people, myself included, measure their so-called success against those who struggle to succeed. It’s a state of affairs that must change—one, because it’s the right thing, the human thing to do; and two, because, as Philip discovers, when the measuring stick disappears, those in power may find the new measuring stick isn’t to their liking.