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3/28/11

A Head of My Time

On earning your keep...

The battle lines are being drawn between the entitlement mentality crowd and the legion fed up with them.

When I was young my mother would say in her inimitable British way, that I certainly had endurance and stamina. Depending on the situation, if she was referring out of pride or dismay, she would add that "I had a good English backbone" or "you certainly have your father's American grit." My father's response was always a sanguine "I wonder where he got that from..."

My parents where a unique combination. My mother grew up on the coast of southeastern England during the Second World War with bombs literally dropping around her. My father was a Western American who grew up in a dried up Arizona hard hit by the Great Depression and inherited real true grit. They were rich only in that they were fortunate to come from educated middle class families, who managed to persevere by their ability to work through difficult times, with ingenuity and making the best of bad situations. Humility and humor were both necessary attributes. In that sense, although their childhoods and adolescence occurred during an arduous time period, they did not want for anything they needed. They also grew up knowing that they got a break, since they witnessed firsthand the devastation and destitution of others and were not shielded from it. That does not mean they had excess of anything, only they were not wounded or hungry, everyone was affected by the Great Depression and WWII in some way.

I tend to think that a lot of the skills required to overcome adversity and rise above, persevere through tough times, anxiety and depression, physical pain, deprivation and isolation is largely inherited through some genetic coding as well as parenting, along with acquiring coping skills through hard lessons in life. Almost everyone I know who has the character to endure burdens that others can't, have one or all those factors, regardless if they grew up rich, poor or somewhere in between. All races, both genders, either sexuality.

Large segments of the US population lack staying power and are looking for the easy way out.

When my family moved to this country when I was 14, although we were not without some means we were starting out all over again. We left where we were with the minimum of goods, the money we were allowed to take out of there, sorry to go but knowing it had become a hostile place with a limited future and happy to come to the US. I had always wanted to move to this country and for me the goal was to make the best out of my life in the way of education, achieving by work and effort. My hopes were for a happy, comfortable life with the ability to obtain things I wanted. That didn't necessarily include having a big house, a luxury car or expensive fashionable clothes, although I did like and want nice things. It also didn't matter to me if that was the goal of others, as long as it didn't trample on me or anyone else in our goals.

That is where in the late eighties and early nineties my values and goals started to really clash with many natural born Americans.  It was not only that they seemed to want more and more big and flashier things. It was that I was seeing how a mentality of entitlement was insidiously creeping into the culture of a large segment of the population. Additionally they didn't care how they got it or what harm they may be causing to everything from values to economics, to society or to the environment. It was their right to have more stuff and bigger things without any regard to how they got it or if they had worked for it. It came to be a dominant theme in the social conduct of America, turning having more than you earn a virtue instead of a vice.

On account of where I live, the work I do and the sheer numbers of people I am exposed to, I am well aware of a lot of people whose lives were built on this type of entitlement consumerism and are crashing and burning. I take no pleasure in it but I have no empathy for the whining and crying of the disappointment these people feel. As far as I'm concerned their anger is misplaced about losing their "right" to conspicuous consumption and misdirected in the wrong trajectory. They should be redirecting it to themselves and placing the blame on their own shoulders. I see trouble ahead for society from these people.

We are already getting the signals from unhappy adults with childlike cries for their rattles back. They're expecting the government and other citizens to bail them out to continue their "right" to a lifestyle they didn't truly earn and those that whine "you promised us." Wisconsin is just a small sampler of the backfire from that camp that is on its way to pitching tents of fits all over the country. On the other side there are those fed up with subsidizing the life of others, especially since most of them have weathered this economic storm without much assistance from the government, unions or social services agencies. My bet is on them, they're even angrier and are beginning to marshal their troops to repudiate both the entrenched political class and arming to counter-demonstrate against the entitlement hordes. It's a matter of time.

This is where I also see the worth in the values I inherited, the parenting I received and learning from the mistakes I made with money, relationships and employment. There is a price when you take the effortless way out by accepting easy money, ditching relationships at the drop of a hat without resolving personal problems, for taking easy jobs that pay too well for really doing very little. There are no rights except those outlined in the US Constitution and I find nothing in that document that addresses the desire to have goodies is a right or to live off public money. There is no "we promised you" clause or mention of an implied contract that you would get what you want.

There is a storm gathering that is going to blow out and wash down everything and everyone that does not have the wherewithal to hold on tightly. Endurance and stamina will be required as well as the knowledge of what you really need and that you don't always get what you want.