Fair Enough?

I think one of the most self-destructive mindsets a person can have is that of determined defeatism.  We hear the phrase “that’s not fair” often.  I smile when I hear it from children, and sigh when I hear it from adults.  It is a phrase uttered by a segment of the population who has become deceived into thinking fairness is having as much as your neighbor — your rich neighbor.  Though admittedly I have never heard this caveat accompanying the complaint, but my suspicion is that when someone thinks fairness is having what your neighbor has, they also think it should be had with little-to-none of the effort your neighbor has invested over their life time.

[Equal opportunity is] not what we have in this country, notwithstanding the popular myth. I worked my way up from absolutely nothing because I started with nothing. I have friends who started with everything. I was lucky, but some people – most people – aren’t as fortunate.

I am sad to say, the popular myth is that we all do not have an equal opportunity at success.  Every citizen in this country is afforded at no cost to them, an education through twelve years of school.  When people complain about not having the same opportunities, what they often mean is that they do not have the same results from that opportunity.  I think many people who do not think there is equal opportunity, equate opportunity with ease of success.

I agree that not everyone has an easy path.  But what we’re talking about is opportunity, not how easy it is to succeed.  When we get down to brass tacks, it comes down to individual motivation.

In my opinion, the most overlooked factor in this complaint, is that failure is a choice.  The failure I am talking about is when someone starts at the bottom, and stays at the bottom.  Every child is afforded access to the public school system.  At this point, future success is dependent on the individual.

Whether you skip class to hang out with friends is up to the individual, not some wealthy CEO.  Whether you study and do your homework instead of hanging out with friends is up to the individual, not some Wall St. fat-cat.  Whether you engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, and/or unprotected sex which dramatically effect one’s future and can result in dropping out of highschool are choices of the individual.

In fact, the person who made the above quoted statement above makes my argument for me save for his conclusion.  He worked hard, worked his way up from nothing.  But he incorrectly concludes that he was lucky, and that most people are not as fortunate.  Motivation is not about luck.  Wanting more for yourself is not about luck.  Putting that motivation into action is not about luck.

There is this mistaken belief that you should be able to waste the opportunity afforded to you while in school (which is where the opportunity begins), and then after years of dead-end jobs complain that your lot in life is not the same as someone else who buckled down and utilized their opportunity to its fullest and succeeded.  Now they stand there comparing their life to their neighbor, no wonder something just doesn’t seem fair.

It’s not fair that some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth while the rest are resigned to utter squalor, raised by lowlife parents. They start at a significant disadvantage.

There is a lot to be said about the concept of fairness.  Fair does not mean everyone has the same as everyone else.  I wholly disagree that anyone is resigned to squalor permanently.  Children may very well be behind the 8 ball so to speak when they are born to parents who have chosen failure.  They rarely care enough to push their children to succeed as they often hold the same sentiment above.  Their parents hold a victim mentality that harbors and encourages animosity for those who have more.  It breeds an ‘us against them’ attitude.  Poor kids sit next to middle-class kids in the same class rooms.  You can lead a kid to school, but you can’t make him work, that’s up to him.

But that’s not prescribed.  Anyone can break the cycle.  It all depends on how bad you want out.  Decrying the wealthy does not improve your lot in life.  Your chances of success are not dependent on how heavily the wealthy are taxed.  It depends on you, and how bad you want it.  Of course wanting it is not enough, and neither is complaining.  You actually have to do something about it.


  1. Couldn’t agree more. There is no arguing that some have greater opportunities than others, but everyone has an opportunity to improve their lot in life. I do think luck may play a small part in this, but “no luck” can be made up for with hard work. I have seen too many people come from “nothing” to make a decent life for themselves. Sadly, we live in a culture that expects things to be handed to us, and then we complain when it never happens.

    • What I can say on the “luck” aspect is this: you don’t need luck to be successful, but you might need it to achieve above and beyond success.

      For example, with normal ordinary just showing up effort, I think you’re looking at lower to mid middle class. With hard work and perseverence, (or normal effort + luck) you’re looking at mid/upper middle class or lower upper class. With hard work, perserverence, and luck, you’re looking as prosperity.

      I think luck improves you to beyond. But it is not necessary for a normal and ordinary life.

  2. Marshall Art says:

    Luck is a myth. Luck is the result of preparation and choice. The more work we put in to succeed, the more “lucky” we appear to be to those who do not put in that effort, or have simply not done so in exactly the same manner as the “lucky” guy. If we want to give any serious value to luck, then it can only be a matter of into which family we are born. THAT can be chalked up to luck on the part of the person being born, as he had absolutely no part to play in being born at all. Luck is a gambling term but even the best gamblers expend effort to affect the odds so that they don’t have to rely totally on chance.

    In the realm of life and success, that which many might refer to as “luck” is merely the result of the actions of the person regarded as lucky. He did something different and put himself in a position to absorb all the best possible results being in that position could bring. Very, very few, if any, people go from birth to the best of lives on a series of coin tosses. It is always work and study and effort, together with perseverance and dedication.

    As a result of this, and your post also leads to this conclusion, it is true to say that poverty in THIS country is largely self-inflicted, and the result of bad choices and actions or good choices and actions not taken.

  3. If there is equal opportunity within the system of US, and the 12 years of school is the same to all, why is it, that nations that have more equal taxation also hold higher persentage of literate people?

    You wrote: “Whether you engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, and/or unprotected sex which dramatically effect one’s future and can result in dropping out of highschool are choices of the individual.” But was it not your former president Mr. Bush the younger, who set an example, that regardless of such choices it is possible to reach even the position of the highest authority in your country, if you come from the right family?

    • The cultures of European nations are different. Taxation is about as low on the scale of factors, in my opinion, as far as success is concerned.

      The tax laws are such that the bottom 50% of americans do not pay federal income tax. So they are getting a free ride as far as that’s concerned. Do you think children can’t read because their parents do not earn enough money? Or is it perhaps, parents of children who struggle in school don’t wish to involve themselves? I am willing to bet that a good many students who do poorly in school year after year have parents who skip the parent/teacher conferences. And likely don’t care what the kid has for homework.

      If you’re going to present Bush as role model for “risky behavior” you must include Obama, the admitted cocaine user also.

      But again, equal opportunity is not the same as ease of opportunity. It comes down to motivation. It might be a harder and more arduous journey, but there is a path. It can be done, and is done by countless people who started from behind the 8-ball. It all comes down to personal motivation and responsibility.

      • Good answer. Social inequality has a habit of transferring through the generations, regardless of initial motivation, though as you point out there are many who actually manage to break up the vicious circle. In my opinion the fact that those with high motivation and some luck manage to raise themselves above squallor, does not however mean societes should not work to lessen misery of the poorest. The problem might be the consumer society, where happines is measured by the amount and price of consumer products used and spent. There are so poor people, even in the US, that do not worry about getting a new plasma tv-set, but rather how the family is fed and rent payed. In a way the US society has been a beacon of success on that path. You have managed to reduce the amount of illiteracy and starving people in a rather short time. What the cost (or benefits) for the rest of the world has been is a nother question…

        You are not saying the situation is ideal, are you? If it is not, in your opinion, what would you suggest to make it better for the poor people? What would motivate larger masses to raise to better life? Or do you think the equation of misery and luxury is in just balance at the moment?

  4. If you’re white and straight and religious enough, gender is less an issue than in previous decades, as long as you stick with the one you were born with

    Everything else is a social handicap without the right sort of connections to overcome or compensate for them.

  5. …says the victim of their own mentality. Nice try Random. You’ve offered excuses. Not to mention false ones.

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