America and Europe are now reaping what has been sowed for the last 50 years in Western society. Our psychiatrists, parents, teachers and even religious teachers inundated us with our “specialness”, carried on about the uniqueness of each person, and generally robbed us of any sense of bad and good, success and failure, better and best.
Liberals accuse conservatives of being slaves to corporate greed. Greed is taking more than one deserves or needs at the expense of others. In the cases where greed has damaged America, such as the housing industry, our country paid the price. But it was not only corporations and banks that were greedy. The people who purchased homes with variable rate mortgages while working low wage jobs were also greedy. It is not only the rich that are greedy. Most people who are doing well are not being greedy. They are receiving the just benefits of hard work, education, frugal and wise spending, and paying their dues.
Growing up, I didn’t have much. I lived with my grandmother until I was 7 years old. My grandfather died when I was 5, and my grandmother had a tough time supporting me, but she never complained. A hard life was just the way the world was, to her. She lived through the Depression and her family and my grandfather were all blue-collar: welders, mechanics. They never asked for a handout, not once. That’s not to say that if friends offered to help out with some work that needed to be done, or offered some extra food for the pantry, that my grandparents would not have accepted it. Only that you never would have seen my grandfather carrying a sign protesting the well-to-do. I do not make a mythical hero of my grandfather. He was human and possessed a withering temper at times. But he was never brutal, only steadfast when pushed. He even held a streak of racism, common in his day. He was from New York and didn’t like Jews, as I remember it. But the man worked like a horse. He was in the machine shop every day, coming in with grease-stained fingers. Our sink held a good supply of Lava soap, but his fingers were never free of darkened creases. He would sit up at night and carve, draw, or sharpen his knives at the kitchen table, or any other form of “tinkering” you can think of. He never complained that he had to support his grandson. I would sit on his lap during the sessions of tinkering, or perhaps be ordeed by my grandfather to stand on a stool behind him and scratch his head. An avid outdoors-man, rifles adorned the walls, suspended on the antlers of trophy game. Later, it was not uncommon at all for me to carry a rifle in the woods alone at the age of 10 or 12 years old. I think this is why my favorite books growing up were Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys.
I never remember envy directed at the rich. My grandparents had it much tougher than any of the Occupy Wallstreet crowd. They grew vegetables in a garden, washed clothes by hand, and had no microwave. They did not have a designer child at 40. They had four sons. They also had a girl, who passed away to God when she was less than two years old. Life was this: Grandfather goes out to the shop to work all day on machine parts that people brought to him to fix. He also repaired firearms. Grandmother cooked and cleaned and cared for the children. Grandfather endured Maine’s blistering winters, working outdoors, wrapped in a wool jacket and hat. The family car was an Oldsmobile Delta 88.
There was Hee-Haw and Lawrence Welk at night. A TV boxing match maybe. A trip to Pat’s Pizza, or maybe over to Dysart’s truckstop or the 95er. This was life and it was accepted. There was no time to envy. There was certainly no time to march up and down the street carrying declarative and mocking signs. The idea of recruiting once’s children to take part in protests would have repulsed both of my grandparents.
You earned what you worked for. If you did not work for it, you did not earn it. If something was given to you without your labor, it was because of the good graces of the giver, not because the receiver deserved it. I’m trying to imagine my grandfather having the time to protest economic injustice.
No one was special “just because”. You were special because of what you did. You did not search for yourself–you made yourself. Pat Farnsworth, the owner of Pat’s Pizza, and good friend of my grandfather, worked for about 70 straight years at his restaurant. He sold 250,000 pizzas a year. He began his restaurant with $150. He never thought of retiring, right up until he passed away at 93 years old in 2003. He never felt the government owed him a thing but freedom. Let him do his thing, and Pat would put his nose to a grindstone until he succeeded. That was America. Pat had a fighter’s heart. In his 80s, he was mugged by two young men as he closed up shop and stepped outside his business holding a sack full of the day’s earnings. the men pepper-sprayed him and thrashed him about. But he fought back and they ran off empty handed. Pat was a millionaire when he passed away. No one who ate at Pat’s Pizza during my grandfather’s day hated or envied Pat for his success. They wanted to learn his secrets, they wanted to be like Pat.
Now, the Occupy Wall Street types cry about “fascism” and “police state” when they get pepper-sprayed after refusing to comply with lawful police orders. Pat and my grandfather would have fully endorsed the pepper-spraying of people camping outside their businesses and homes for months. They would go on working and the Occupiers would go on whining.
Our horrendous ideas on parenting are partially responsible for the cretinous complainers, with their IPads and Powerbooks, sporting their Ralph Lauren glasses, protest signs (with poor spelling) exclaiming the injustice they face, and a lot of time spent not filling out applications. This is the “A” for effort generation. You tried (sort of). And you’re breathing. So the system owes you, but you owe the system nothing. It’s like expecting a car to run without putting fuel in it. Or maybe we just expect everyone else to buy the fuel for our car.
America was made, as Max Weber stated, on the Protestant Work Ethic. That, more so even than Democracy was America’s secret. Now, our secret is how much we can get from the system, not how much we can accomplish before we die. We must game the system until the system cracks, and then blame the system.
To all you Occupying cry babies: Until your calluses have calluses, until you’ve earned your Master’s degree in something other than Art History, until you’ve gone into the military as a well-paid officer, don’t complain. Walk into the local recruiter’s office with your Bachelor’s degree, sign up as a 2nd Lieutenant, have the US government pay for your college loans and find out what real responsibility looks like. Until then–shut up.