Occupational fairness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 1, 2011, 6:53 PM | comments: 0

There's a video (well, audio statically showing his face) from Adam Corolla with his take on the Occupy Wall Street "movement." It's kind of funny because he gets so fired up and swears a lot, but there is also some truth I think to what he's describing. His assertion is essentially that there is a generation and/or sector of people who feel envy or shame when it comes to "rich" people. he further asserts that this is the result of an entitled upbringing (with "participation trophies"), but I'm not sure if I agree with that part.

What I will theorize is that there may be some truth to the envy/shame theory. It is true that there was a time when you saw a rich person and you'd tell your kid, "Yeah, that person worked hard and is materially successful because of it." There was some level of respect for that.

For one reason or another, that sentiment seems gone from our culture. Instead, there's a discussion that seems to fundamentally work in the realm what is fair. I can't speak for everyone, but I know I heard that "life isn't fair" at a very young age. I even tell Simon that when has a tantrum, even if I know he doesn't understand what I mean. The point is that you accept that there isn't a free ride and you do what you can to mitigate any disparity, to the best of your ability.

Now if you want to talk about "the system," it's certainly fair to say that it is not fair. It never has been, and it never will be. That said, I think it's important to have the context that it has been a hell of a lot worse. In the big picture, it wasn't that long ago that black people were expected to sit in the back of the bus, and women couldn't vote. Believe things suck, but by comparison, these are still good times.

So what do you do about things being unfair? Apparently you camp out in public places. I'd be OK with that if these folks organized and built a common voice, well-versed in the issues, but aside from random people throwing up Web sites ranging from solutions like "end capitalism" to more rational desires like "close tax loopholes," it's mostly a bunch of entitlement bitching. You'll never get my support for that. You sure as hell won't get any empathy if your only tactic is to paint hard-working people as evil and greedy.

If it was me steering the discussion, here's what I'd do. First, I'd stop talking about what's fair. Then I'd stop generalizing that anyone doing well is evil or greedy. If you do that, you eliminate the entitlement accusations completely.

At that point, I don't know if there's any point to discussion about what's fair. There are a ton of things you can talk about that would be constructive, at least for the purpose of changing some things that might be unfair. For example, you could talk about closing the gaping loopholes in some corporate taxes. Just be ready to defend yourself when the corporate defender reminds you that the corporation employes thousands of people. You might talk about repealing silly trickle-down tax cuts for rich individuals, or certain shelters that effectively reduce their liability compared to those who can't afford the same arrangements. Again, be prepared to defend negatives.

But please, enough with the fairness stuff. If that's your only talking point, you've got nothing. There will be no empathy. Wealth and success are not rights, no matter how loaded you think the dice are. Don't be a crybaby white kid with a degree and no idea what to do next. Figure it out, and while you're doing that, make change by constructively offering solutions that aren't motivated in a "life isn't fair" argument. The rest of us live in the same system, and we're doing the best we can too.


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