Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Omega Approach to the Good Life

I have let the blog lag and it's not due to busyness or intense focus on writing. Instead, I find that as soon as I arrive home from work each day, every single thing I had on my mental to-do list immediately flies up the chimney and evaporates into the clouds. Even posting a link on the blog feels like too much work. I watch in awe those people who work, truck their kids to multiple activities, actually play with those kids, help with homework, make dinner, clean the house and still have energy for hobbies and socializing.

Perhaps one of the reasons I feel so tired after work is because it is emotionally draining. I am in the unique position of working with youngish adults who will make far more than my yearly salary in their very first year of working life, and it will only go up from there. They have never felt a moment of insecurity in their lives. They go straight from the loving arms of their middle-to-upper-middle-class families, to college, to graduate school, to high paying jobs. Their families are always in the background to give them emotional and financial support. They've always been comfortable. They've never had to stand on their own two feet and stare into the abyss and walk that fine line each day along the edge of it, hoping not to fall in. No, they are 100% secure.

...Which is why it infuriates me and breaks my heart each day to listen to these "Omegas" (Children of Men reference. Read the book and don't watch the moronic movie), talk about how evil wealthy people are and how their wealth needs to be taken from them. I will never earn as much as these youngsters, but they are the ones who envy the wealthy (only they don't call it envy, they call it redistribution for the common good, but whose good?).

 I don't envy the wealthy because I aspire to be wealthy and successful.

Don't these spoiled children realize that when they seek to punish the rich, they are cutting off the dream of escape for the rest of us? Why should I work hard or try to develop my talents if the end result will be punishment if I succeed? What these children don't realize now--because they are still only earning student wages--is that this knife they are holding to my throat--can one day be turned on them.

Only it won't.

They will be so successful that no amount of taxation will affect them and they will continue to vote as they do. Or the taxation and regulations will affect them, but they won't connect the dots to see that they are suffering by their own hands. Instead they will double down on their ideology and continue to blame the rich for not voluntarily relinquishing every penny they've ever made, as if the combined treasure of a small percentage of the population were really enough to make even a symbolic dent in the debt when the real problem is the way we spend money.

Sarah Hoyt wrote a fantastic post on the problem of envy that touches upon what I've been experiencing with the Omegas: that while they don't see anything wrong with themselves making lots of money (because they are the good people, you know), they don't think anyone else is entitled to striving for the same thing:

I don’t want to bring people down to my level, though I often want to get up to theirs, and sometimes – mostly on my friends’ behalf – I get a little annoyed when people who have a lot with a lot of help think I’m a lower life form because I’m stuck where I am (or my friends are where they are).
But we’ve got – partly because of the idea of Marxist economics, I THINK, in which everything is zero sum and if you have something it means I can’t have it; but also because of this odd idea that seems to affect mostly boomers (no idea why) that anyone who succeeds is crooked and must be brought low – to a place in society where we glorify envy.
People are considered worthy, not because of how hard they’re working or because they’re decent people and good friends, but because they’re “disadvantaged.” I.e. they’re in a bad position, and this alone entitles them to bring others down to elevate themselves. And people who are successful – at least in all books and movies – are considered somehow crooked and evil because they’re successful.
I don’t understand this. I don’t think that a society as a society can survive this sort of upside down idea.
Yeah, the romanticization of the poor by people who will never be poor makes me want to gag.

Ok, so why did I bring up all this heavy economic stuff on my fluffy writing blog? 1) Because I want to be a successful and wealthy writer one day (heck, I'll settle for "comfortable" at this point), and 2) Because the same type of envy exists among writers as well.

Look, I'm acquainted with a writer who is currently blazing her way to success 95% because she's a fabulous writer, but also because she's a gorgeous blonde who still has a chistled chin and clavicles even after having two children (yeah, life's unfair, but that's what this blog post is about: not envying the inequality of outcomes). Her looks allow her to write things that lesser mortals just can't get away with. I'm THRILLED to see her succeed and don't wish her to be less talented or less pretty simply because the combination of the two is helping her along. It's inspiring to know that she made it. Is making it. Full stop.

And there are other writers out there who also seem to have an easier time, but you know what, I'm happy for them too. I don't need to punish them in order for me to succeed. I want them to succeed and I want to succeed. I don't need to redistribute their success into a literal version of Harrison Bergeron, which is what people today are attempting.

Trust me, there's enough success out there for us all, but guaranteeing the attainment is impossible. Ditch the envy. Strive for success.

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