Thursday, February 19, 2009
I had dinner last night with a thoughtful guy who I was just getting to know. We both have our struggles in business and are both worried about the economy, but neither of us are really down about it. Why? Because of our great fortune in life. If you are born in the United States of America, you are already so far ahead of the odds -- you're somewhere between third base and home plate already -- that you really have nothing to complain about. Imagine where else you might have been born. If you then can say that you were raised in a loving family that taught you good values and could afford you a good education, then you are already beginning your slide. Then, finally, if you are younger than a certain age you have grown up in a period of enormous prosperity and technological marvels, and have mostly been sheltered from the ravages of war, pestilence, and famine. At that point and from that perspective, it becomes harder and harder to complain about one's lot in life, at least with any intellectual honesty.
Of course, there are many Americans for whom good luck turns horribly bad or who suffer great anguish, and my heart goes out to them. Even a lot of luck in the circumstances of one's birth cannot overcome the slings and arrows of certain misfortune or, for that matter, bad personal choices. But how many people do you know who complain about trivialities, or are down because of, well, problems that most people in the world could not imagine are problems at all?
Well, this comedian has a similar point of view, only funnier.
Every person born American has a horseshoe, sitting in a field of 4 leaf clovers, at the foot of a rainbow, next to a pot of gold with Leprachauns dancing around it, up.their.butt.
They just don't realize it 'cause all they see is fantasy shows on TV and other media convincing them they don't matter or don't 'have' by seeing athletes and other unreal examples of the far end of the distribution.
Our middle class live better than most people on the planet. They just don't know it.
Perhaps a useful stimulus, and given the needs of the moment let's say a worldwide stimulus, would be to have a lottery and give 1 in every 5 Americans round trip plane tickets to a few select spots in the world. Say Burma, China, Russia, Vietnam, Ecuador, Namibia, Yemen, Chile, Indonesia and India. Heck let's throw in 3 weeks unemployment.
We could fund the whole program for 75 billion.
We could borrow the money and for once our grandchildren would benefit.
The trip to Namibia might be edifying. As one who spent nearly 4 years in that country, I wonder what impression its 1st world infrastructure and crushing unemployment and rural poverty, all of which persists decades after apartheid, would make on those whose only prior awareness of the country comes from Brad and Angelina's patronage of it as a birthing center and the odd National Geographic special?
I'm lucky I live here, that Obama is president, and that I get to pay taxes. I'm lucky I live here, that Obama is president, and that I get to pay taxes. I'm lucky I live here, that Obama is president, and that I get to pay taxes.
Sorry, I clicked the ruby slippers and it's still not working...
I just want to second TH's heartwarming post. In America, we're very fortunate, especially in having the honest, stalwart Congress we're lucky enough to have elected.
For the rich, the whole world is pretty much the same. In fact, hotel and restaurant service is better in many places outside the U.S.
Re: "complain about trivialities"
I always liked the favorite expression of Henry Ford II. He borrowed it from Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th-century British Prime Minister: "Never complain. Never explain."
Well, since I got laid off last February and have generally been underemployed, this might have something to do with my general state of crankiness.
Also, since I am a libertarian progressive crank who believes the two party system is selling us by the pound down the river, that might have something to do with my state of dispair over the fate of the republic.
We note that the comedian was refering in general to technology having made things better. The interesting thing is that I don't necessarily view recent developments in communications and transportation technologies as improvements. You would be surprised that people actually communicated using the transatlantic cable, and before that ships, and it actually worked. I successfully resisted getting a cell phone for a long time until TH made me get one.
In terms of what has happened to government over the last 80 years I am not sure that this is an improvement either.