Obama’s now-infamous “You didn’t build that” speech may have been trying to express a valid point-that most people acknowledge anyway–that all our successes come from the people who helped us along the way, but it does so in a *negative* way. Yes, there are sadly people on the “Right” who insist, “This is *my* money, this is *my* business. I earned/built it, and it’s mine, mine mine,” and sadly given the polarized nature of our political dialogue, many people *say* that but don’t really mean it the way it sounds. However, Obama’s speech speaks to the difference between the Radical Left and, well, just about everyone else.
I’ve heard many of the “bosses” on _Undercover Boss_ say how they recognize the people who’ve helped them along the way, so they want to reach out to their lower level employees as benefactors or mentors–that’s great, and that’s what the occupant of the White House was theoretically getting at. However, his approach was to say you deserve taxation, not “you should voluntarily reach out to those who are trying and need a hand up.” Rather than positively building on the notion of showing gratitude to those who have helped us in life, he focused on being negative towards those who are successful, treating their success as a random aggregate of factors that put them where they are.
This is the expression of the attitude of the kinds of people who support Obama: liberals with an entitlement mindset who insist their own situations, whatever they are, were the “luck of the draw” compared to other people. It is a depressed, and depressing, way to look at life. Liberals insist conservatives are too negative because we speak out against sinful behavior. Liberals, however, are too negative in that they speak out against any kind of success.
Look at the liberal attitude towards education: back in the days of segregation, “White schools” supposedly did much better than “black schools” or “hispanic schools,” and since the white schools were better funded, and since rich kids generally do better than poor kids, the liberals started to insist that money was necessary for a good education. So they started throwing money at schools with no real understanding of what they were doing. Then neoconservatives came along and said, “We’re throwing all this money at schools, but nothing’s changed. We’ve had integration, and minorities are still performing badly. So it must be the *teachers*.” Both sides, when it comes to education, take Obama’s attitude of looking for someone to blame, of attributing lack of success to circumstances. No one seems to be aware that success in education is always correlated to parents. Affluent parents tend to be more educated themselves and more likely to encourage their children’s education, plus they’re able to pay for better resources *at home.* In “Lilies that Fester,” C. S. Lewis warns that one danger of mass education is a true education happens at home, not at school, and the poor cannot afford their own books and private tutors, etc., so mass education just turns into mass brainwashing, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten today. States have adopted bi-partisan “Standards of Learning” that list, in great detail, what topics students are “supposed to know”: this war but not that war, this president but not that president, this novel but not that one. . . . It amounts to a very obvious attempt at biasing the students’ knowledge to what the legislators insist they should know–in order to better serve the legislators and their corporate sponsors. A true education is about learning how to think and how to read, and then being exposed to a variety of information and books so one can form one’s own mind.
I don’t think there’s a single Valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, or other award winner who thinks, “I got here by myself.” We all recognize the role our parents, our elder siblings, our teachers, our friends, and our other mentors played, as well as the authors whose books we read. But there is still an element of personal motivation involved there, such that two people from exactly the same background can end up quite differently. The other day, I watched the movie _Eagle Eye_, where Shia Labeouf portrays identical twin brothers (one of whom is dead at the time of the film). One brother, the dead one, was an A-student who ended up in the USAF and as one of the top young people in US military intelligence. The other brother, Labeouf’s character, had the capacity to go to Stanford, with a little help from his father’s money and connections, but was always a poor student who needed his older brother’s help. He was never motivated to “succeed” like his brother was, and had been working odd jobs and bumming around the country for years. That wasn’t the point of the movie, but it does illustrate what I’m talking about here.
Modern liberalism originated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who held that an individual’s morality and worldly success were products of environment. That view has been the basis of liberal thought for centuries since, but as various ventures have tried to reform society to eliminate sin and eliminate poverty, they have all failed. One answer that modern progressives have come up with to explain the failure of their agendas regarding sin is that maybe certain things are not sinful. This is the agenda behind the “born that way” rhetoric of the homosexualist movement.
However again, when it comes to “success”, liberals/progressives continue to insist that circumstances are the primary reasons for success or failure. They refuse to state it in a positive way by encouraging those who succeed to become benefactors and mentors to those who don’t succeed precisely because they don’t see the success as coming *from* the person. To the mind of a liberal, there is no difference between Mitt Romney (whose net worth is estimated at $250 million) and a Mega Millions jackpot winner. Can a Mega Millions Jackpot winner give a speech saying, “This is how I won the lottery: you can do it, too?” No. And in their mind, the success of someone like Mitt Romney or John Boehner, both of whom were born into poverty and made it big, must be the result of some nefarious scheme or some cruel fortune.
A conservative, and even an “old school liberal,” says that people like Romney and Boehner have something to be proud of. That Boehner is one of 10 siblings and made it big while his other 9 siblings live middle class lifestyles at best should not be seen as the “luck of the die,” but rather as a testimony to his personal commitment.
Similarly, those who find success in a middle class lifestyle should have similar pride. I was just watching an episode of _Everybody Loves Raymond_ the other day where Ray is having a “mid life crisis,” and he tries to put together a “bucket list,” but all he can come up with are foods he never tried, and diseases he doesn’t want to get. Debra tries to explain to him that he’s content. My wife always talks about how much she admires her father for how he turned down opportunities for career advancement for his family. I know my own father did the same. Both our mothers did the same thing by turning down their own paths for career success to be stay-at-home mothers, and we admire them, as well.
To a liberal, a stay at home mother is someone to be pitied because she is “saddled” with the burden of a family by her religion, by the institution of marriage, by not having free government paid-for birth control, etc. A father who doesn’t “advance” in his career is to be pitied for the circumstances of his kids “holding him back” or because someone else got the job.
Those who get promotions are not to be admired because it’s entirely random and arbitrary–which is why liberals support affirmative action. Grades in school are random and arbitrary–so students are taught not to respect teachers whom they think are entirely ‘on the take”; successful students aren’t “hard workers” but “teachers’ pets”.
This is the attitude that leads people to vote for Obama and “Occupy Wall Street.” Again, those people would say they think conservatism is a miserable philosophy because we condemn the sins that they use as opiates, but we look at their philosophy and say, “How can anyone live with such a negative attitude about success?” When we find success in our achievements–whether as stay at home parents, small business owners, middle class workers or wealthy executives–we don’t need to resort to the opiates of sin to self-medicate our ennui. That’s why it’s ultimately happier to be a conservative.