Occupy This

November 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

A Guest Blog by Melissa Atwood

What a disservice we have done to most of a generation by allowing them to live outside of reality. They were taught to believe that life was fair – that everyone always won an equal prize, regardless of who was the faster runner, more talented (or dedicated) pianist, or the most gifted student.

They were taught that, if life went sideways, it wasn’t their fault. Some other thing, person, institution, or idea must be responsible for their unhappiness. They believed this. They were encouraged in this. We protected their self-esteem. And now, they esteem themselves so highly that they do not believe that they ought to have to do things that are “beneath” them.

They shouldn’t have to work for minimum wage – not even for a little while. They shouldn’t have to earn their position in a company (and the salary and benefits that go with it) by hard work and excellent performance. After all, everyone is supposed to receive an equal prize, regardless of who is the best salesperson, most talented (or dedicated) nurse, or the most gifted teacher.

The natural corollary: there shouldn’t be extra rewards for those who do work harder, exhibit more talent, or hone their skill. No. If someone has received those rewards, they must have done so illegitimately. Because life is fair. And we all should get the same prize.

And so they occupy streets and parks and plazas around our country. They express their discontent with “evil corporations” and “the 1%” of most wealthy Americans.

Well, I have news for these young folks: I, too, am in the 99%; and the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd does not represent me.

I am first-generation college. None of my grandparents even graduated from high school. In the early 1900s in the Deep South, poverty was rampant. And my grandparents and their children did not escape this. One of my granddads grew cotton out of red clay that he had plowed with a mule. And my mom, even as a little bitty girl, worked in those fields picking cotton by hand.

 

My dad’s family lived in town but worked just as hard. My dad had one skill set: he was a retail salesman and manager, not unlike his dad. Still, he cross trained himself and ultimately became the owner of a successful, albeit small, petroleum construction company.

Today, my mom works in a retail store as a cashier –primarily for the insurance benefits. My dad is retired and draws Social Security. He doesn’t have a pension or 401(k), although he has a small next egg he managed to save. My brother works very long hours as a semi-truck driver. It’s hard work, but he’s really good at it. I can’t even drive a straight shift, but he drives vehicles that actually have two different steering wheels and more gears than I can fathom. And by doing this, he takes care of his family.

I have a nice, cushy desk job. To get there, I busted my butt in school for 20 years. I was studying until bed time when I was 11 years old. The Lord blessed me with amazing opportunities, but all of them required that I perform once I got there.

So I feel like I have the bona fides to say what I’m saying here.

Of course, there are bad guys. Some of those are rich people who got that way by cutting corners or cheating. Some have hurt “little people.”

But some are in the government and have passed or signed legislation because of a benefit that it would bring to themselves or their benefactors. Some in the government have meant well, but haven’t thought things through to their logical conclusions. They’ve mandated “fairness” at the expense of common sense. And things have gone sideways.

So I say to those who occupy Wall Street, Main Street, and everywhere else: Life is not “fair.” Whoever told you that it was has lied to you. But you live in the greatest country on the planet. You live in a place where, if you are a hard worker, you can become president – regardless of whether you’re the child of an immigrant or part of a political dynasty, whether you’re from poverty or were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

This is as close to fair as we’re going to get this side of heaven. But you have to be willing to take responsibility for your own situation. You must exert effort, acknowledge your failures, and not give up if you don’t succeed instantly. Learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off, and make another run.

You won’t start at #1, but you have a chance to finish there. And that is as fair as life is going to get.

This is Reality. Please, for your own sake and that of our country, consider occupying this.

 

 

 

 

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