Tuesday, September 09, 2014

When you are self-absorbed, you can’t see the forest for the trees

Commentary by James Shott

Life provides lessons for us in unusual ways. Occasionally, it is someone totally missing something obvious that provides the lesson. Here is a very good example of that.

A photograph posted on Facebook shows a woman holding up a sign. The sign says: “I have a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Studies. However, the only job I can find is as a bartender at a local restaurant. I owe over 60k in student loans. I am forced to rely on food stamps and WIC to support my son. Is this the ‘American Dream’ I worked so hard for? I am the 99 percent occupywallstreet.org.”

The lesson is there for all to see, but the woman – let’s call her “Ms. OWS,” – not only didn’t learn from her experience, she didn’t even suspect there was a lesson there. That experience was only an opportunity to complain that America hasn’t provided a better life for her.
The lesson that unless you are independently wealthy or have someone to support you while you go to school, you don’t borrow 60 grand to pursue a degree in a subject area that will not equip you to support yourself and your child and pay for the education that you have just received totally escaped her notice.

Like the make-believe class college kids used to joke about, “Underwater Basket Weaving,” Women’s Studies, is not a viable career field. To prepare for supporting yourself you study accounting, engineering, computer technology, law, medicine, chemistry, elementary or secondary education, or one of the other majors where jobs are available. But Ms. OWS, probably without a gun to her head, instead chose Women’s Studies.

The Occupy Wall Street movement with which Ms. OWS so closely identifies, includes some pie-in-the-sky idealism, like:
    •    The right to economic justice, including a living wage for all, regardless of the job, or the level of skills or experience one has
    •    Debt forgiveness for all debts
    •    Free college education
    •    Open borders

These goals are not merely unrealistic; they are dangerous. None would be good either for the country or for its inhabitants. Someone has to pay for the higher wages, the free college education, and the debt forgiveness, and that won’t be the people who think about life like Ms. OWS does; it will be the people who approach adulthood responsibly, and prepare to take care of themselves.

Movements like Occupy Wall Street seem to attract those disaffected souls who, for whatever reason, have not learned what life is about, expect to be provided for, and become indignant when life does not provide to them the rewards to which they believe they are entitled, due to nothing more significant that they were not aborted and draw breath.

Like Ms. OWS, they float through life indulging in the things they like, neglecting to seek out things that will prepare them for life as a responsible citizen, and then contributing to society and the wellbeing of our country.

Perhaps it’s not entirely their fault. We have a segment of our society that imagines it is possible to achieve Utopia, and a large group of pandering vote-seekers all too willing to promise it to them, and who provide a few goodies at taxpayer expense in return for votes and a cushy career in government.

And then there’s government, itself, at all levels. Even in cases where young people show some initiative, and take steps to help themselves, they are often thwarted by bureaucratic absurdity, as in these examples reported by The Daily Signal:

** Chloe Stirling started a business in her kitchen called “Hey, Cupcake!” In addition to selling her goods to friends and neighbors, she donated some to charitable events, including a fundraiser for a student with cancer, and delivered cupcakes to residents in a senior home. Not good enough! Illinois health officials declared that she lacked the necessary permit to operate and told her to close up shop.

** A zoning official in Holland, Mich. shut down a 13-year-old’s hotdog stand because he was supposedly competing with nearby restaurants.  Nathan Duszynski had planned to sell hotdogs to raise money for his disabled parents. The boy’s mom has epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. Within minutes of opening his stand, a zoning official ordered him to cease operating because he lacked a license.

Bah! Humbug!

Is this a great country, or what? On the one hand there’s a substantial number of people who think they are entitled to whatever they think they are entitled to, and lack the motivation to get off their duffs and earn their rewards, and on the other hand people in government stupidly apply rules to punish young people who take the initiative to earn something through work.

But then there was a pleasant breeze of tolerance and common sense wafting its way north from Dunedin, Fla. where 12-year-old T.J. Guerrero operates a lemonade stand to raise money for summer activities with his friends and family. After one neighbor complained to the city, Mayor Dave Eggers visited the stand, enjoyed some lemonade, and praised the youngster’s initiative.

Perhaps all is not lost. But we must be vigilant.

Cross-posted from Observations

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