Is there a distinction to be made between parasites and social climbers? Yes, most wealthy and influential people are social climbers, but not all are parasites. Also, a parasite can make a living off of others at any level of society. A social climber prefers the good life, and there are both fabulous and deplorable ways to get there.
A gold digger, sometimes called a trophy wife, is not always a parasite. In this time honored tradition, an aging man is willing, or sincerely attracted to, someone who has youth, vivaciousness, sex and beauty to offer in fair exchange for also sincere attraction, or financial security. It should be reflected upon that blonde bombshells like Anna Nichole Smith did her marriage time for years with a rich man but she did not reap but a tiny percent of his fortune. Also, there are male gold-diggers too, but they are more often known as gigolos, studs, or boy toys.
A gold digger, man or woman, may also be someone who is not necessarily out to target just a rich spouse. A gold digger can glom onto any person, or group, feasting at every chance upon the sweet nectar of association, discipleship, social lubrication. If any "follower" is actually a true friend, even if imperfect, they are in a mutual gain (symbiosis) situation, but some are just squirming their way upstream to spawn a goblin of greed, fame or fortune.
Another type of parasite can be called the apple polisher, or brown nosing nuisance. Classy types prefer the term "obsequious little suck-ups." There is almost no truly powerful person who does not have a fair share of these fawning sycophants. After too long in the inner sphere of non-stop adoration, these kind of parasites can deteriorate the film of the bubble from the inside. Pop.
Then erupt the inevitable scandals, or fallen angel acts, that tumble people down from even the very highest levels of fame and regard.
Half a century ago, The Kennedy brothers lost a bit of respect for associating with mob molls and movie stars. But on her side, Marilyn Monroe gained ascendancy and status, that is, until too much became just too much.
Social mobility makes no promises of good outcomes for anyone. This is because at the core of it is a human need to achieve something that seldom is all it is hoped it will be. Real and genuine connection is the modern, shallow world is so rare, it is no wonder at all that most people question the motives of everyone around them.
Some people born into higher echelons of society, are expected to be special. Forgive them for not knowing how to hold a silver spoon in the mouth when so many are offering to hold it for them. Others will scamper up the ladder with every opportunistic tool, some of which are trampled people, to get there.
All people know of social climbers in nearly every setting. Even within one family fall the stereotypes toward success: the first born over achiever, the darling baby, the middle kid putting in extra effort. Beyond the family clan there are people striving for time, money, attention and status. In every classroom is the teacher’s pet, apple polisher or smart Alec. In every office is the flirt, the boss toady, or the salesman of the year. In every public office, is the super entrepreneur, the gifted speaker, the promise anything they want guy. Sometimes they even run for president. Or, worse, they tease that they would like too, but are clearly just in it for the self promotion.
No one is naming names here, of course, but musk-oxen scented, bear blasting Caribou Barbie types who may also be former, half governors or former mayor of Wasilla, could qualify as this type of social climbing parasite. Or not. Also some people who for no other reason than to be paid, and mega tanned, go around futilely trying to discredit Muslims, Kenyans, U.S. citizens, and every Hawaiian born president.
There is always the chance that upward mobility, usually driven by a desire to have more status, wealth, respect and goods could fail. Many social climbers tumble down, or just stay on the same level going nowhere, for long periods. Then there are falls from grace that tumble people down from pinnacles to inescapable depths.
As with Monroe and the Kennedys. or Britney with K-fed these days, there are different attitudes at different times and places. Lance Armstrong was once a genuine hero. He is not alone among athletes who doped and deluded many, but most of all themselves. And, with such extreme "climbing" it is anybody's guess how much of it could be considered parasitic, rather than just part of their fanatical human drive.
Also a long time ago, John Lennon provoked a scandal when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Yet, when he died, he instantly regained respect, and his anthem, “Imagine” which offers the idea of no religion or nationalism is so mainstream and revered that it was showcased in the 2012 London Games.
John Lennon was murdered for the "sin" of having possessions in a world where he wanted others to just imagine not being parasites. Many people have talent as well as ambition, but only history decides whether they took more than they gave. Some people get rich and some people get shot. Go figure.