Self-re­liance is out, vic­tim­hood is in

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Thomas Sow­ell

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 Thomas Sow­ell is a se­nior fel­low with the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

Richie Parker

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