Monday, October 31, 2011

The Myth of Equality

I have been doing a lot of thinking on this lately, prompted of course by the OWS folks.  Like I said, I've got a soft spot for hippies, so I want to be on their side, and I started out very sympathetic.  Now, though, I am frustrated and annoyed.  It doesn't seem to me like very many of these protesters are really living in the real world.

This is actually a pretty common theme of mine, as y'all who are regular readers will know.  I'm on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, and though I see some room for improvement (improvements I can make, thankyouverymuch), the truth is there's no amount of money that is enough to be worth it to me to miss out on the armful of baby I have at this very time.

There are people in this country who define success as making $X, and set out to reach that level of their career.  These are the kids who go to the right schools and study the right subjects and make smart decisions the whole way, eventually entering a field that is in high demand.  If they have an interest in creative pursuits, these things are pursued in their spare time--what they want to do and what they need to do are carefully balanced.

Then there are people in this country who define success as living X kind of life.  I am among those people.  The things that are truly important to me--being a mom, having a good family, being creative--do not have a monetary value.  You see a variant of this from a lot of artists and musicians.  They decide to live their passions and build their lives around chasing their art.  Sure, success is hoped for, but it's more about getting their stuff out there than anything else.  The need to earn money is recognized begrudgingly, and is pursued only to the extent necessary to fuel creative pursuits.  These are need/need folks--art or family is as necessary as breathing, and the need for money takes a distant second place.  There's little balance, if any.

It seems to me that most of the OWS crowd is made up of a subset of the Type II people, the creatives.  They've pursued their dreams, and that's okay, but for some damn reason they failed to notice that doing so was going to prevent them from achieving the same level of monetary success as the Type I people. 

Part of this is, I think, a societal problem.  American culture is very, very consumerist.  Look at how many of our beloved kids' shows/cartoons are thinly veiled toy commercials--and this has been true as long as there has been television.  It is even worse now than before, of course, with Disney Corp. sending reps to hospital rooms to visit new moms with Disney-branded gifts, and the pressure continues throughout life.  The way people act, you'd think everybody and his brother has a smart phone, and here I sit without a cell phone at all (and I like it that way--can't be expected to talk to people without a phone!).  Day after day we're presented with a list of must-haves.  We must own our own house, or it's throwing money away; we must have a new car, and if we're parents it has to be a Toyota Sienna or we hate our kids; we must have a hi-def TV and DVR and Wii; our kids must have a certain preschool and after school activities and classes and...and...and...

And Type II people?  They can't afford this shit.  Not unless they're living way outside their means.  Of course, y'all were rolling your eyes through the last paragraph, because of course we don't need all that shit.  None of us does.  We need food, clothing, shelter, and some way to relax, yes, but who is to say that the food has to be from Whole Foods, the clothing from the mall, etc?

It's as though none of these people ever grew up.  I can have some sympathy for the twentysomethings, 'cause maybe they just haven't matured enough yet.  But there are older people there too, people who profess concern for their grandkids.

Too bad they never thought to break the cycle of consumerism with their children.  To, as Dave Ramsey says, change their family tree.

There's no guarantee of equal outcomes.  There shouldn't be.  I've seen a saying, supposedly an Einstein quote, floating around a lot lately: "Everyone's a genius.  But if you measured a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it would go its whole life believing itself a failure."  By the same token, a creative type measuring his or her success by bank balance is using the wrong measuring stick.

(Tomorrow, or in a couple of days, I'll talk about Equality of Beginning, because it's much more important for achieving the balance Leftists claim to want.)

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