Happiness is Not an Entitlement

A college physics professor (and loyal reader of mine) received an e-mail from a teaching assistant regarding a student who had stopped attending after a couple of classes, had done no projects, had not taken the final exam, had initiated no contact whatsoever with the professor, and who was now—after the course had ended—insisting she be allowed to withdraw rather than fail the course. Showered with a profusion of pressure and lame excuses from the student, the teaching assistant ended her note with: ‘I completely agree with the ‘You’ve made your bed. Now lie in it.’ mentality. […] These kids today have NO sense of responsibility. […] Now, there are way too many loopholes for them to twist and turn. Can we have the good old days back?’

The professor responded: ‘Yes, we can have the good old days back, but first we have to get rid of:

1. Backbone-less politicians (and presidential candidates) who are scared to death to stand up for anything, simply spouting whatever they think the constituent du jour wants to hear. In the process, whatever they might be doing to twist, change or ignore reality is of secondary importance. And why should it be important? Look what they can get away with when they stand before the world and simply…lie.

2. The ‘feelgood’ nonsense that is so prevalent today. The cult of sensitivity that whimpers that it’s OK to let Johnny think that 2+2=5, and that it’s ‘mean’ to correct him because it will hurt his self-esteem. Where in the hell do they think self-esteem comes from? Wait ’til Johnny expects—but doesn’t get—the same treatment when he’s 35 and ends up dead in a McDonalds with an AK-47 in his hand. And, sadly enough, he—and his parents—and the fawning public schools—won’t understand why. They’ll blame the gun manufacturers, or the maker of the locks on the door of the McDonalds. Shame.

3. The general malaise that government has to do everything for us (pay for our health care, regulate our private lives, and ‘protect’ us from who knows what); when what we really need protection from is the government. Beware of any politician who says he wants to ‘help’ you. Unless you love mediocrity, you will not be better off! He who pays the bill, gets his will. We have created generations of people who expect—indeed, demand—handouts and ‘entitlements.’ Talk about self-esteem! Where’s it going to come from if our guilt-ridden politicians and academics systematically eliminate the greatest incentive to production, accomplishment, and, yes, self-esteem: the desire for profit—personal, emotional and financial.

4. The myth that you have to ‘sacrifice’ in order to be a ‘good person.’ BEWARE of those who urge you to sacrifice! They will most often be the ones standing there to collect the sacrifices! If we all took responsibility for ourselves, and took care of ourselves rationally, then there would be no need to sacrifice for anyone. Voluntary charity toward genuine victims (physical disability, natural disasters, and so forth), would be the exception—rather than the billion-dollar politically driven, coercive industry it is today.

5. The ‘diseasing’ of everything that happens to us: the senseless over-diagnosis of ‘Attention Deficit Disorder,’ and our inability or unwillingness to teach our kids to focus and discipline themselves enough to pay attention to something they might not happen to enjoy. This and most every other popular ‘disorder’ out there today simply enables people to avoid (ignore?) responsibility for whatever they have managed to get themselves into. What about these people who murder their kids, then get off because they managed to convince some PC-infected jury that they are just another victim of the Affliction-of-the-Day? Watch most of the ADD-diagnosed kids while they’re playing their Gameboys or Segas—they are just fine (if they can respond to you through the Ritalin-induced fog). As a teacher for over 20 years, I have seen examples of this over and over. And, believe me, many other teachers, in hushed tones, agree wholeheartedly. Sadly, some of the best ones, the ones who care enough to take it personally, are giving up on the teaching business altogether.

6. The glorification of people for who they ARE rather than for what they have accomplished: ‘You are good and should be congratulated because you are Asian, or gay, or black, or depressed, poor or afflicted, or because your parents drank, or…whatever’; NOT ‘You are good because you invented the automobile, or transformed the computer world with your genius, or created a new medical procedure that saves lives, or (God forbid), simply went out and did an honest day’s work.’ They are the ‘robber barons,’ the ‘profit-hungry’ evil ones, envied because they accomplished something—in spite of, I am sure, a list of their own disappointments and issues. And yes, thank you, for profit—making millions of lives easier and longer in the process. Profit and the drive for success that creates it is what made our country what it is today: the most high-tech, the most comfortable, with the best medical care, etc. All available to those who are willing to get out there and work for it!

Thomas Jefferson never promised us happiness…he promised us only the safety and security to pursue happiness. It is the government’s job to provide us with that physical safety, protect us from fraud, and then get the hell out of the way and let us produce, create, and use our minds to make our lives easier, cleaner, longer, and more profitable. When this country was becoming the greatest in the world (yes, with all its imperfections, still the best) we had none of this ‘new frontier’ and ‘entitlement’ drivel that we have today. Understand that I’m not condemning voluntary charity or voluntarily doing whatever you want to do to help others. I’m wholeheartedly for it! But I don’t think our government was created to be the multi-trillion dollar baby-sitter that it has—thanks to our hard-earned money—mushroomed into.

In the good old days men and women were rewarded with profit if they created something good—good enough that people freely went out and spent their money for it. They took responsibility for themselves, paid their bills and took the hard-knocks. They, and the world, were (and, at least for now, are) better for it.

That’s how to get the ‘old days’ back. Aren’t you sorry you asked?’