Last week I wrote a post on the idea of poverty and the ease with which it has or could have access into our lives. It created, I feel, a very good discussion on social media, and the reader comments made me think further about how poverty plays into the hands of opportunity or the lack thereof. I’m not presenting this point from a global standpoint, but a national perspective. So, America only.
America is a two-pronged entity. Not only do these two co-exist, but they actually intermingle. America is both an actuality (of course) and an idea. I will cover the actuality of America first.
AMERICA AS AN ACTUALITY
Our great country is the land of opportunity. It is actually the land of opportunity. People who come here and receive their citizenship, or visa, and even those who make their home here illegally are presented with opportunities they would not find anywhere else. We are a lenient kingdom (forgive the hyperbole, but I call it what it is) and a giving society.
We don’t have food shortages. We don’t have electricity shortages. If we don’t have enough jobs, then the government creates some out of nothing in order to create something, even if that something eventually turns to nothing. If you don’t get one of those jobs, then the government will pay you until you get a job. Some are paid indefinitely for not even a “nothing” job. They’re simply paid for nothing at all.
We give free education for those who want it, and actually demand those who don’t want it to get it anyway. We assist dreams to become realities by offering aid to small businesses, creating routes to Hollywood (for those so daring), and encouraging the courses of free enterprise. Great ideas overtake good ideas. Good ideas are beaten by good ideas done easier. America, therefore, is the land of competition.
We have the freedoms to worship in any religion. The freedom of speech and press, regardless of party or leaning. We are allowed to speak our minds verbally or digitally. We are a free nation that practices its freedoms with vigor and pride.
All of these things are actualities. But let’s arrive to the bigger picture.
AMERICA AS AN IDEA
Around the world, America is seen and believed to be this beacon on a darkened shoreline. A place where, if just reached, life will be better. It is a place where dreams become a reality. It is a hope that can be pinpointed on a map. But these are ideas of what America is or is supposed to be. These are not, in the strict definition, actualities.
There is an idea that is America. Dreams can come true; goals can be achieved. But their fruition has always been dependent on hard work, determination, and sacrifice. This idea is non-existent in many other countries. Yes, we may be spokes in the wheel, but often we become the spoke by choice. We can just as easily attempt to create our own wheel.
A CHANGE IN IDEAS
Creating the wheel, however, is where we have a problem. We have begun to excuse the ideals of hard work, determination, and sacrifice. It is becoming replaced by the idea of entitlement. This catastrophic idea that simply being an American entitles one to the American Dream.
This current idea of entitlement sweeping the nation (seemingly, the sweep has already occurred) is truly because of the previous idea of what America is or should be. The idea of success and fame and wealth and prestige and respect stems way back to our earliest generations that pushed the Crown out of this country and made it our own. We have all been indoctrinated with the idea that we can be anything we want to be, and for all intents and purposes, this is true. But it comes at a great price: hard work, determination, sacrifice.
Young Americans of today and yesterday have been taught that the American Dream is placed on a silver platter and all one needs to do is sit at the table and dig in. That if you just “want” something, it will be given to you. If you “want” a job, you can have it. If you “want” a degree, you can have it. If you “want” money, you can have it. Sadly, this generation is getting much of what it wants and very little of what it works for, due to not working for things at all.
We have confused these two ideas, which seem similar, only because the result is the same, or, to many, they should be the same. The fact is that, although many wish for the hard work to be disposed of and replaced with a hand out, it simply can’t work that way. Hard work, determination, and sacrifice are still required, and those who shirk those efforts by taking “free money” or base their knowledge on a YouTube course are destined for failure and debt.
A FALSE IDEA FROM THE START
I fear we are raising a generation that is under the impression that success will be handed down to them like old money. It is a systemic problem, no doubt. Children are being perpetuated with the idea that education is simply in the diploma itself and not in actually understanding things. Our children are being pushed through the education system and entering college or the workforce unprepared for any type of abstract-thought-requiring environment. That is not to say that there aren’t plenty of smart kids or talented youth. No. But a majority of students, required in our current public education device to be “well-rounded students”, are coming out squares.
It starts from the beginning. Fed from the top, grown from the bottom. After graduating with the belief that subpar performance in spelling, math, science, and let’s not even consider the arts, is more than enough to succeed, it is little wonder how worried we are about the current and upcoming generations.
Diplomas are handed out to students like children trick or treating during Halloween, but the world will take issue with it. It has come to the point that we can hardly compete with other countries, now that the education system has been the test dummy for the past several Administrations. What separates us from the others is that we provide opportunity, while other countries suppress it.
People come to our country for our universities and our job opportunities, and the opportunity to start their own businesses. They do not come here for our porous secondary public education. That would only put them behind.
So when we say that our children are not given opportunity to succeed, it is a lie, but only to an extent. Children are being educated to think that opportunity is a right, rather than a task. It is the blinding falsehood that preaches that the idea of America has somehow evolved from what has always been the case: work. When lies are perceived as truth, then it will be an arduous uphill climb to convince that generation otherwise.
Is there truly a deprivation of opportunity? Has America abandoned its citizens and removed the possibility of crawling out of impoverished living? The answer is no. Success hangs on the fingernails of every American citizen. Unfortunately, many are being pushed off this idea from the onset.
There is too much available here in the states to ever suggest that we have not. There are libraries. There are school tutors. There are charities. There is no censorship on our Internet, as made proof by the gargantuan amount of pornography available and readily consumed. Spending time watching porn (globally, more than 4 billion hours in 2015) or mindless creepy clown videos, rather than spending time wisely creates a personal deficit on the one thing we all require for success: time. That, however, is a whole other rabbit trail, but probably one worth walking. We literally have the world at our fingertips, but it is the idea of work that gets in the way.
The argument can be made that people don’t know about these opportunities. Some people don’t know how to spell or read (revert to my previous argument about the public education system). I know that there are obstacles and those who have only ever received the hyena’s share. I wonder, though, how far we will continue to progress if we only stand on the exceptions as the rule? I’m not preaching a sentiment of being unmerciful or holding others in disdain. Help those who need it. But pandering to someone’s shortcomings because they decided against the prerequisites of opportunity is self-defeating.
There was a statement I learned in grade school by Captain John Smith, who was over the English colonists in the 1600’s. “He who shall not work, shall not eat.”
It is the simplicity of cause and effect, and I think it can easily be interpreted and applied to our lives in every aspect. Consider this from now about your goals and dreams and aspirations, or anything of some value: “You don’t ----, you don’t ----.” That is the idea of America. Cause and effect.
Work toward opportunity. When opportunity arrives, embrace it. But keep in mind that opportunity has never ever equated to success. It is by chance that success comes; but it can only come through opportunity. And the only chance of creating success out of that opportunity is through hard work, determination, and sacrifice.
That is the idea of America that must remain as its actuality. Otherwise, America will become a very wrong idea with an even worse actuality.