Pete Seeger – Banks of Marble
3. If you have ever worked hard (or smart) for something and achieved what others did not, you will wonder why you ever doubted that effort and skill were dominant, nor why anyone else doubts that. On the other hand, if you meet a person who has had a disadvantage not of their own making – an illness or accident, a troubling background, belonging to a less-favored group – you will wonder why you ever thought effort and skill are all-conquering. Both things are true, and there is no getting around it. Part V - A Thought Experiment Yet most people will be happier in the long run if they believe the former. We fear that some will be damaged by the idea, coming to despair in the end – but the human power of rationalization is usually much stronger than that. For those who believe in their own agency, despair is temporary.
On the other hand, such an attitude can lead us to look down on others. It is good to think “There but for the grace of God go I.” How then does a society structure itself so that it teaches everyone that their effort is everything, but nothing? We have the Calvinist Arminian split cut along different lines here. (For those not up on that, the Calvinists paradoxically worked harder than anyone else in order to reassure themselves that they were one of the elect, who didn’t need to work for their salvation. The Arminians believed their effort of conversion was key to salvation, but once that was done, a lot of them tended to fall into disrepair and not make so much effort.). Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians is likely the closest we can come to expressing both halves of this paradox.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not
without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Cor 15:10
I’m not sure that any society has ever got that contradiction resolved, though America has perhaps done best at it. The school where I have learned this best has been family relationships. Being a husband; a son and stepson; natural father and adoptive father; brother, uncle, grandchild, in-law. When you have divorce, estrangement from parents, childlessness, distance, you are greatly hampered in learning how this contradiction plays out in real life – how someone can work like a dog for wealth but give self and treasure away humbly.
Single mothers and couples without children vote overwhelmingly Democratic. I don’t know how closely that stacks up with the Democrat subcategory of Liberal, but I’m guessing there’s considerable overlap. People can learn a way through this contradiction other ways than family relationships, but it is a powerful disadvantage.
No one fully understands the complexity of value, wealth, worth, and honor in a society, but liberals understand it considerably less well, and haven’t a clue about it. Their confidence that they understand more when they understand less is what makes them dangerous.
Ray Stevens – Mr. Businessman
Absolutely true. Part V-A - A Thought Experiment - continued The other wealths that progressives tout are indeed more valuable. So why are they so angry, then, if they’ve got it so good? If money isn’t the key to happiness, why are they so resentful of other people having it? If businessmen choose to waste their lives, why should Ray Stevens be so pissed?
Ah, we know the answer, don’t we? The excuse that others are starving and impoverished by it is certainly not true in this country. That wealth destroys the environment is a popular shorthand, but ultimately weak idea. The objection to some people being much, much richer than others means two things: it means that liberals don’t have top status in our society, and it means that the machine is not running smoothly. (see #4). And if the machine is not running smoothly, it can never usher in the vision (see #5).