MYTH: Financial rewards are the best motivation

Search Articles

Categories

Posted Jul 09

I must give credit for this post to Paul Begala, political writer for Newsweek.   In the June 25th issue he passed on an anecdote which, whether true or not, epitomizes a major destructive attitude, a cultural virus in our country.  I quote it directly:
I have a wealthy friend who lives in a wealthy neighborhood.  One day he was in his front yard, chatting with his next-door neighbor, a Republican, who asked him why he’s a Democrat.  My friend said he’d grown up poor but had gotten a good public education, worked his tail off, and made it.  Then he pointed to the gardener across the street.  “Don’t you want that gardener’s son to live the same American Dream we have?”  His neighbor shot him down, sniffing, “That gardener’s son will be my son’s gardener”.
This is entitlement thinking- and parenting -at its worst.  I like Warren Buffet’s philosophy that you want to give your children enough so they can do anything, but not too much so they don’t have to do anything.  The guy in the story has embodied the mentalities that we came here to this continent to escape; nepotism, meritless accumulation of wealth and power, repression of the virtue, hard work and intelligence of our fellow citizens.  What if his son turns out to be a lazy jerk?  And the gardener’s son a brilliant inventor who, for lack of basic education fails to blossom?  We, as a society, lose.  The rich son loses.  The gardener’s son loses.  Personally, I expected my son to make his own mistakes, take some hard knocks, and learn to rely not only on his own brains and initiative but also to seek out help and partnerships from others, while pursuing work that he enjoys and is good at.  After an excellent education in our public schools and universities, he makes a great living and loves his work.  He has become a healthy adult, highly valued in our economy.  The question is not what we get in this life, but what we become.  I know I’ve said that many times.  It’s worthy of repetition.
People who are insecure & afraid can become greedy and lose their compassion for others.  Another favorite quote:  The highest expression of human intelligence is kindness.  (And I don’t mean shallow courtesies.)  Although our Republican Congress is not the exclusive domain of this sickness, they dominate the field.  Rather than skillful statesmen ( remember Mark Hatfield?) they have become small-minded, mean-spirited, irrational sycophants, creating a death spiral to the bottom of dysfunction by institutionalizing the “virtue” of aggressively self-imposed stupidity.  As a result, the self-destructive culture they have created, after a 30-yr. concerted effort, is harming themselves more than the issues they fear (gays, taxes, government regulation, dark-skinned people. non-Christians, equal opportunity etc.)  In fact, their fears have been baseless all along.  They have met the enemy in the mirror.