The war against achieve­ment

Self-re­liance is out, vic­tim­hood is in

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - By Thomas Sow­ell By Ben S. Car­son

Afriend re­cently sent me a link to an in­spir­ing video about an up­beat, young black man, Richie Parker, who was born with­out arms. It showed him go­ing to work — un­like the record num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing on gov­ern­ment pay­ments for “dis­abil­i­ties” that are far less se­ri­ous, if not fic­ti­tious.

How is this young man get­ting to work? He gets into his car and drives there — us­ing con­trols set up so that he can op­er­ate the car with his feet.

What kind of work does he do, and how does he do it? He is in­volved in the de­sign of rac­ing cars. He sits at his com­puter, look­ing at the screen, with the key­board on the floor, where he uses his toes as oth­ers use their fin­gers.

His story re­calls the story of He­len Keller, who went to an elite col­lege and on to a ca­reer, de­spite be­ing both deaf and blind. Her story was cel­e­brated in books, in tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries and in an in­spir­ing movie, “The Mir­a­cle Worker.”

But our cul­ture has changed so much over the years that the young man with no arms is un­likely to get com­pa­ra­ble pub­lic­ity. Keller’s achieve­ment was seen as an in­spi­ra­tion for oth­ers, but this young man’s achieve­ment is more like a threat to the pre­vail­ing ide­ol­ogy of our times.

The vi­sion on which the all-en­com­pass­ing and all-con­trol­ling wel­fare state was built is a vi­sion of wide­spread help­less­ness, re­quir­ing ever-ex­pand­ing big gov­ern­ment. Our “com­pas­sion­ate” statists would prob­a­bly have wanted to take this young man with­out arms, early on, and put him in some gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion.

To cel­e­brate him in the main­stream me­dia to­day would un­der­mine a whole ide­o­log­i­cal vi­sion of the world — and of the vast gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies built on that vi­sion. It might even cause peo­ple to think twice about giv­ing money to able-bod­ied men who are stand­ing on street cor­ners, beg­ging.

The last thing the po­lit­i­cal left needs, or can even af­ford, are self-re­liant in­di­vid­u­als. If such peo­ple be­came the norm, that would de­stroy not only the agenda and the ca­reers of those on the left, but even their flat­ter­ing im­age of them­selves as sav­iors of the less for­tu­nate.

Vic­tim­hood is where it’s at. If there are not enough real vic­tims, then fic­ti­tious vic­tims must be cre­ated — as with the claim that there is a “war on women.” Why any­one would have an in­cen­tive or a mo­ti­va­tion to cre­ate a war on women in the first place is just one of the ques­tions that should be asked of those who pro­mote this po­lit­i­cal slo­gan, ob­vi­ously de­signed for the gullible.

The real war — which is be­ing waged in our schools, in the me­dia and among the in­tel­li­gentsia — is the war on achieve­ment. When Pres­i­dent Obama told busi­ness own­ers “You didn’t build that,” this was just one pass­ing skir­mish in the war on achieve­ment.

The very word “achieve­ment” has been re­placed by the word “priv­i­lege” in many writ­ings of our times. In­di­vid­u­als or groups who have achieved more than oth­ers are called “priv­i­leged” in­di­vid­u­als or groups, who are to be re­sented rather than em­u­lated.

The length to which this kind of think­ing — or lack of think­ing — can be car­ried was shown in a re­port on var­i­ous eth­nic groups in Toronto. It said that peo­ple of Ja­panese an­ces­try in that city were the most “priv­i­leged” group there, be­cause they had the high­est av­er­age in­come.

What made this claim of “priv­i­lege” grotesque was a his­tory of anti-Ja­panese dis­crim­i­na­tion in Canada, cli­maxed by peo­ple of Ja­panese an­ces­try be­ing in­terned dur­ing World War II longer than Ja­panese Amer­i­cans.

If the con­cept of achieve­ment threat­ens the pre­vail­ing ide­ol­ogy, the re­al­ity of achieve­ment de­spite hav­ing ob­sta­cles to over­come is a deadly threat. That is why the achieve­ments of Asians in gen­eral — and of peo­ple like the young black man with no arms — make those on the left un­easy. It’s why the achieve­ments of peo­ple who cre­ated their own busi­nesses have to be un­der­mined by the pres­i­dent of the United States.

What would hap­pen if Amer­i­cans in gen­eral, or blacks in par­tic­u­lar, started cel­e­brat­ing peo­ple like this armless young man, in­stead of try­ing to make he­roes out of hood­lums? Many of us would find that promis­ing and in­spir­ing. It would be a po­lit­i­cal dis­as­ter for the left, though, which is why it is not likely to hap­pen.

When I was a teenager, we loved to play base­ball, and in my neigh­bor­hood there were two teams. Both of them were quite good, but they were bit­ter ri­vals. It was not un­com­mon for fights to break out when they played each other. On one very mem­o­rable day, a very boast­ful team from another neigh­bor­hood chal­lenged our neigh­bor­hood to a game. Their team was quite for­mi­da­ble by rep­u­ta­tion, and nei­ther of our teams would likely have been able to beat them. We de­cided to put aside our dif­fer­ences and use our strong­est play­ers to form one neigh­bor­hood team to take up the chal­lenge. It was one of the most mem­o­rable games in my life, and we ab­so­lutely slaugh­tered the com­pe­ti­tion. That was the be­gin­ning of many last­ing friend­ships and the end of an un­pro­duc­tive rivalry.

The rea­son for the great suc­cess of our new neigh­bor­hood team was a recog­ni­tion that we were much stronger when we com­bined our forces and stopped fight­ing each other. Is there a les­son to be learned here by those in­di­vid­u­als who rep­re­sent all Amer­i­cans in both houses of Congress, the ex­ec­u­tive branch and the Supreme Court?

The 14th verse in the 11th chap­ter of the book of Proverbs states that there is safety in the mul­ti­tude of coun­selors. This means that you are much more likely to be suc­cess­ful if you’re will­ing to lis­ten to an ar­ray of opin­ions re­gard­ing an im­por­tant de­ci­sion. The health and well-be­ing of all Amer­i­can cit­i­zens is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­por­tant is­sue, and now that the health plan that was put forth by only one party has been shown to be fa­tally flawed, it may be a very good time to put aside our

AAAd­if­fer­ences and com­bine our strengths to ac­com­plish a very worth­while goal.

There is no ques­tion that we need health care re­form, but there is a ma­jor ques­tion about whether it should be some­thing that is im­posed upon the peo­ple by a gov­ern­ment that thinks it knows what is best for ev­ery­one, or whether it would be bet­ter to cre­ate a sys­tem that pre­serves the free­dom of choice and lib­erty of all Amer­i­cans?

Usu­ally when a com­plex is­sue is tack­led, it is wise to de­fine the ba­sic goals of ev­ery­one in­volved. I think it would be wise for a health care re­form plan to in­clude the fol­low­ing:

med­i­cal and sur­gi­cal cov­er­age for ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for health care re­main­ing in the hands of the pa­tient and the care­giver with­out in­ter­fer­ence from the gov­ern­ment or some third party.

free­dom to choose the type of insurance plan that fits the per­sonal needs of each in­di­vid­ual and fam­ily.

mech­a­nism to take care of cat­a­strophic health is­sues and chronic de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tions.

mech­a­nism (which most coun­tries have) to pro­vide for in­di­vid­u­als who sus­tain in­juries from med­i­cal treat­ments that does not re­quire com­plex and ex­pen­sive le­gal in­volve­ment.

way to pay for all of it in a man­ner that in­volves ev­ery­one on a pro­por­tional ba­sis.

I am aware of sev­eral plans that have been of­fered and can pro­vide an ex­cel­lent ba­sis to be­gin dis­cussing some­thing that works for ev­ery­one. Let’s stop say­ing there is only one way and that no one else has a plan. Such re­marks are false and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

We must have open minds as we look at al­ter­na­tives and rec­og­nize that we as Amer­i­cans can be ex­tremely cre­ative and have a long his­tory of pro­duc­ing spec­tac­u­lar an­swers for com­plex prob­lems. If we re­lin­quish pride and party af­fil­i­a­tion and pro­ceed openly while wel­com­ing pub­lic scru­tiny, we can get this done quickly. In the in­terim, we must pro­vide a bridge of insurance for those in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies who lost the cov­er­age they had as a re­sult of Oba­macare. The law was a costly mis­take, but at least it started us on the road to much-needed health care re­form, and its au­thors should be proud of that fact.

As we solve this prob­lem, and I know we will, let us re­mem­ber that many of the peo­ple who pre­ceded us in this na­tion gave ev­ery­thing they had, in­clud­ing their lives, in or­der that we might be free. Many of their an­ces­tors came here from other parts of the world in or­der to es­cape so­ci­eties that told them what they could say and what they could not say, where they could live, what they could do for a liv­ing, how much money they could make, what they had to buy, as well as a va­ri­ety of other con­trols.

Whether we are Democrats, Repub­li­cans or in­de­pen­dents, we must not for­get that we can­not sim­ply im­pose our will on our fel­low cit­i­zens, no mat­ter how noble we be­lieve our cause to be. That is al­ways the ini­tial, tainted seed for the es­tab­lish­ment of a to­tal­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment. Let us learn from this ex­pe­ri­ence and move on in a united fash­ion to solve this and the many other prob­lems that face our na­tion.


Richie Parker

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