Time for a Little Honesty

by Abiola Lapite | 5/24/96 5:00am

It is time for a little honesty in modern America. It is time to face some unpleasant truths without flinching, and to deal with them rather than trying to wish them all away. It is time for people to start accepting once again that their fates lie largely in their own hands, and that the world does not owe anyone a living.

One peruses almost any periodical today, and what does one see? A litany of excuse-making, whining and buck-passing. One sees victims, and victims of victims, victims everywhere multiplying. One sees blame being passed to that ubiquitous villain called "Society," for all kind of shortcomings in people's daily lives.

Are you a college graduate disappointed because, despite what you knew about the job market for humanities majors, you decided to major in English anyway? Well it's not your fault! Society should value your skills more the barbarians! Your college placement office didn't do a good enough job! It's anyone else's fault but your own, because you know you studied hard, damn it!

Or maybe you aren't an Ivy League parasite, but one of the salt of the earth, an assembly line worker, and you've lost your job to those unfair Chinese workers who cost only a tenth of what you do for the same work. There's a listening ear for you too, you'll be pleased to hear! We share your pain. We know if it wasn't for the collaboration between the greedy manufacturer refusing to pay your union five times the going rate, and the crooked politician worried about "national productivity" and "consumers," you'd still be doing just fine! We all know that those big companies and foreign workers just don't play fair!

The kind of things said above are what all too many have been hearing, and what they'd like to keep hearing, but it's time to face reality. It's time to say it plain and simple -- the world does not owe you, me or anyone else a living, and if a society decides to pretend that such a debt exists where there is none, there is a price to be paid. The governments of Europe are only now admitting that perhaps too much of a price has been paid for the sake of compassion. Even the most admired welfare state, Sweden, is jettisoning its compassionate old ways, and not willingly -- things had simply reached a point where the government couldn't afford to keep things the way they were.

Lest we be driven to smirk at the Europeans, it must be pointed out that Medicare and Social Security are a disaster still waiting to happen. Faced with the choice of letting people live off their own savings (imagine the thought!), and borrowing our way to bankruptcy, we happily choose the latter, when the former would be the greater charity. Those who doubt this should remember that the old have enjoyed their youth, and the ones who will be forced to pay the debts accumulating are the very same ones who will never enjoy Social Security or Medicare.

The rot isn't only in the government. The rise of the victim in America is still ongoing, and it is hardly ever the case anymore that we hear anyone accept the blame for wrongdoing; if it isn't "Urban Rage Syndrome" a la Colin Ferguson, it's the Menendez brothers blaming unloving parents for the murders they committed.

What is worse is that all these "victims" are being taken seriously. And what about the shameless hordes who bare their sordid lives for all to see on shows like "Geraldo" and "Oprah," or closer to home still, the women who blame their eating disorders on society's aesthetic preferences instead of their own desires to be attractive? And I will say nothing about the all too common excuse that the reason group X or Y doesn't succeed is because of a lack of role models.

What has disappeared from American life is the kind of personality that says "The buck stops here," the kind of individual who doesn't wait for manna to fall from heaven, but aims, by his own hand, to make something of himself. It was this sort of individual who made America great, not the excuse-monger or the blame-passer, and it is by an infusion of this kind of thinking that immigrants add so much to American life.

For example, it would surprise many to hear that African-born blacks are the most highly educated ethnic group (even including whites and Asians) in America. In addition, their median family income is higher than that for white and Asian households.

These are things one would not know from hearing some people complain about the pervasiveness of racism in this country. Yes, racism does exist, but it is disingenuous to pretend that most of us are powerless to overcome it. The same is also true for many other adversities there may be great obstacles to overcome, but much can also be achieved by simple grit, application, and refusing to believe failure is predestined.

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