Financial responsibility vs. victimhood

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 11:32 PM | comments: 0

I suspect one of the reasons I'm so dissatisfied with politics these days is because I think both sides are completely full of crap. On one hand, you've got the Republicans who think you can balance the budget or reduce debt by reducing the taxes of the people who can afford it the most. On the other hand, you've got the Democrats who insist that everyone is against you in a loaded system where you are the victim and they can save you. (Disclaimer: The system does suck to an extent, but the victimhood pisses me off.)

I got to thinking about this in one of the many discussions we've had on CoasterBuzz about wages of theme park employees and the rising prices of tickets. I often wonder if my position, which doesn't fit conveniently into either of the traditional camps, is out of touch because I do OK in my profession. I wasn't born this way, and I have worked my ass off to get to where I am, so I know what it means to not make a lot of money. After ditching radio, my first "real" job paid about $27k. Stephanie worked retail in grad school, so we were not bankrolling big money, but we made it work. And yes, we even traveled around to visit theme parks. I'm not sure I'm out of touch when I remember so vividly where I came from.

Going back to that theme park vacation context, I think everyone gets to make choices. Culturally, we seem to have settled on the idea that it's OK to use credit excessively, buy more house and car than we can afford (largely to exhibit some bullshit status), and not have any long-term financial strategy. I lived by credit abuse when I was younger, so I'm guilty of at least one of those. But even on my crappy little local government salary, I still prioritized so I could visit those theme parks. It meant eating out less, driving inexpensive and practical cars, and living in a relatively modest apartment. Those were our choices. As time went on, I made more choices to pursue a more lucrative career. It didn't always make me happy, but I still made deliberate choices.

I am sensitive to the socioeconomic factors that keep people down. It's never as simple as, "You can make it happen just because." For example, it's pretty strange to me that people can write off a group of folks living in poverty who deal with racial discrimination and substandard education as just being "bad people." Hope doesn't exactly flow freely for people born into a situation where they can't see a positive outcome. What I am insensitive to is the people who do not have extraneous circumstances feeling that they're victims of something. I don't know what causes that beyond an expectation that you are owed something for nothing.

It sounds a little preachy, I know, and probably like I'm boasting to an extent. That is not at all my intent. I try to be very humble about where I came from and try to be kind to people who are struggling. At the end of the day though, we have to make choices. We all need help now and then, but bettering our situation begins with self-awareness.

The funny thing about money is that I like having it, I don't mind earning it, I try to give it freely where I think it will make a difference, but the whole "root of all evil" thing has some truth to it. The people who have it can exert influence to keep more of it. The people who don't have it react, sometimes violently, in ways that further split a cultural divide. I don't have a better idea... it's just an observation.


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