Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

I was talking with a compatriot several decades younger than myself about the messages we get as children. I wondered what the vagaries of difference in the message, if any, might be between those who grew up in lower and middle income areas, and those who grew up amongst the top of the ladder both economic and social. The conversation took an interesting detour.
I was talking about the message that “you can be anything you want to be”, “you can do anything”, given hard work and dedication.
This message rang loud and clear in my childhood. It was everywhere, from school to scouts, church to TV programs. Yes I knew that I was probably never going to be an Olympic gymnast -but- the apple hung out there IF you cared enough and worked hard enough, you could try.
That was even the patriotic message, that in the US you were free to try. In my day there were even scholarships and grants to make that college somewhat within reach. Or you could work your way through.

My friend didn’t get the same message. The message was there , but half-hearted. Something you said to kids, but didn’t really believe. I’m trying to remember TV from the 80’s. Was it part of the message there?

Now I went to school during a wonderful, inspirational time in US history. JFK, Martin Luther King, the Feminist and Civil Rights movements, NASA put a man on the moon. Many of the people of my parents generation were the first to graduate High School and thanks to the GI Bill many had gone to college. And of course our economy was growing.

My friend went to school after these great leaders had been killed. The civil rights movement was stuck in recalcitrant racism. Income levels were flat for the average worker, but we hadn’t yet defined the problem (Reagan was telling us we were better off). Feminism had put women to work, but hadn’t leveled the playing field either in wages or home and child care. Divorce had soared and a generation learned that families and marriages were easily broken.

I grew up with Leave it to Beaver, my friend with The Simpsons.

Are these the reasons for our difference in perception, or was I simply naive and my friend more cynical? I’d like to hear from folks of all ages. What was your experience as a child?
Posted by Cybil Discourse at 4:29 AM

By AFarmer

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Ken Carman
13 years ago

We’re very close in age and, looking back, I think all that well intended feltergarb may have done us a big disservice. The work hard canard: the hardest working amongst us, those who clean toilets, have 2-3 jobs, make beds, non-union construction, tend to earn the least. Rush Limbaugh… anyone out there want to suggest he works harder? Even sports figures like Tiger Woods?

Alex Bennett, talk show host, has commented on this several times. He has said that there are times when he was close to very, very rich… and he worked far less than when he was poor. He said there’s an odd inverse formula here. I would tend to agree and add that those who earn the most, often highly valued, are often involved in something barely legal, slightly shady and on the edge.

“you can be anything you want to be”, “you can do anything”,

I have seen too many dreams of the far more talented than most crushed on Music Row to believe that. Seen too many horrid employees who kiss buttsky well promoted while those who work their patusch off: produce results, get laid off.

My father, when he was on his death bed, had a similar discussion. I talked about how corporations treat us as worse than disposable trash. He said, “It was going that way even when I was working, Ken. Luckily I got hired by a very family friendly company.”

I went to college and worked hard, denied myself basics eating oatmeal every day and Campbell’s cheese sandwiches: toast two pieces of bread and put a “slice” of Campbell’s Cheese Soup between them. Lived in roach filled apartments. I even stayed in place I didn’t know was condemned (the landlord told me I could then neglected to check back on me) with no lights, no heat: Upstate, NY in minus 0 weather. Stayed there until June when he did check back. My grades were good. When I got out I simply couldn’t get a job in Communications. But the local paper would hire my ex-girlfriend’s girlfriend to proofread the local Gannett rag. She never graduated High School and English was not her subject. She told me they hired her because they admitted it was a six month job, and after they’d hire someone of equal education for six months.

I remember the first time I got fired. I was devastated. I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me. I had to be a terrible person. That was our parents speaking. But times had changed. Now you get laid off they call it “fired” sometimes. I think some of the cynicism, less upbeat-ness, does help folks like your friend.

Sp your friend may have a better handle on it all than we do, on a personal level. As an individual maybe it helps. Maybe. I’m sure some of the differences between you are due to all of this. But one wonders, as a whole, whether the attitude, the cynicism, really serves us as a society, or solves a damn thing.

Joyce Lovelace
Joyce Lovelace
13 years ago

Perhaps the greatest source of my depression has not been that we don’t get the rewards we deserve from hard work and honesty – but that so many people don’t believe in hard work and honesty. Our government certainly seems to prove that over and over. The citizenry seems to uphold the supremacy of wealth and power over justice and right. And even the church has gone a distance down that road.
If it makes the bottom line black – it must be ok – to hell with my neighbors, my friends and my progeny – it’s business, nothing personal.

Ken Carman
13 years ago

Part of the discussion on those shows, I think Hartmann did this too, is the question, “Is this a con?” Essentially we work our %$#@! so others can get rich and work less… to hardly at all. From my experience previous to becoming my own employer: yes.

Guy on talk show yesterday was arguing with the host, claiming he would get rich by saving his money. Good luck with that. If you’re real luck, maybe investment in stock during the best of times, or outright gambling that some stocks will fail which should be illegal. Of course if it all goes belly up they’ll take a quick dive into poverty doing that.

The cons are so plentiful. Right now even Hartmann has run ads for consumers to buy gold. What they don’t understand is during the last Depression the government confiscated gold, and there’s no indication anyone was reimbursed for it.

It’s a con, IMO. And a lot of the stuff out there these days is, due to deregulation and refusal to regulate anything.

If we want people to work hard then rewards need to be plentiful, cons squashed and we need to shift our pyramid of who gets the praise. Right now sports figures, big time talk show hosts and big time entertainers are at the top of the pyramid.

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