The Cult of Bootstraps

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I am a strong believer in personal work and development. I am living proof that determination can actually attain goals and do things. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in 25 years of living, and 26 brings more goals. Yet, there is also a wall that exists that many of us hit and only a few can crawl over. I’m banging my head on that wall right now.

The reality is that outside factors play largely into whether or not someone will succeed in the way they want. These outside factors come in many forms. They’re income-based, education based, socio-economic based. Sometimes it comes down to sexism or racism. And even though we all want to believe that we have to tap into some type of well-spring that will fix our lives the reality is out of our control.

One applies for jobs they really want, one is maybe perfectly qualified and ready for the commitment. Your write a stellar resume and provide great references and update your website and you pray for the job. Yet 70 people apply 50 are just as qualified as you but 5 are more qualified and have more experience. Guess who gets the interview? Guess who stands out. Probably not you.

It raises the point that for every job in a certain field there are possibly hundreds trying to break into the field. Add onto it a later retirement for most people, which isn’t opening up jobs like it once did, and less jobs to go around in many industries and one is stuck in a bubble of underemployment.

For people in the millennial generation our wages are low and our potential to move ahead is harder. We buy homes less, because we can’t afford them. We’re loaded down with student debt, buying into the idea that our education was worth it. We don’t have benefits with many jobs we have, and we are having a harder time breaking into the fields we went to school for. If we ever get there. Many of us are still slinging pizza and selling clothes at Kohl’s to try and make it.

Many of us that went to school for a try at the middle class are facing an existence that has had wages stagnate for our lives and that of our boomer and gen-x parents. Add on the great recession which knocked a lot of people out of careers and into a downward spiral and we have a hot mess.

While I admire the idea of creating happiness and creating wealth in little things it’s also important to understand the crunch that basic survival takes on those living it. So much of one’s energy is placed in how to pay all the bills and come out with enough to buy food. A lot of energy is placed on figuring out summer camps and how to afford it and stressing about credit scores and if one can ever get ahead.

The increments are tough too, we might get a new job and make more, but then we lose our medicaid or other benefits such as income-based rent. So one has to earn significantly more to make a difference permanently in their lives. If you live somewhere like Fort Collins it’s even harder to pull ahead as the cost of living and cost of rent is harder to afford. 

The reality is that every single person living in the lower class or lower middle class, is literally pulling themselves up every single day by their bootstraps, just to get out of bed. The reality is that it is often so hard to want to even be alive. I believe this feeds into the drug epidemic and why so many people rely on medications of various kinds.

Much of this is compounded by a lack of well-paying and benefit-heavy jobs. Which I also understand. When a business is trying to employ people but it lacks significant profit it’s hard to pay raises and insurance and taxes and vacation and everything else. Sometimes companies can’t even fathom employing people full time, or only employ a few people full time for these reasons.

So what do we do? As the gap between rich and poor grows so wide.

A few ideas that would help would be single-payer healthcare for everyone, education for everyone, improved high school education that is heavy on teaching valuable skills, more corporate taxation and oversight, and more programs to even the playing field. Of course this comes down to taxation and taxing either everyone equally, say 20%, or a higher tax rate for those that earn more.

Historically, the United States had it’s largest economic boom in the post WWII years as a result of higher taxation and more education with the G.I. Bill. We also held onto manufacturing jobs and “built” the United States and much of the world. While globalization has changed much of where we manufacture, we also have opportunities to create more equality and affluence. Perhaps those that worked on the oil rigs could be recruited to work with renewable energy sources?

Much of this starts as early as high school and is a goal of lifetime improvements and learning. It also has to be backed by money going to actually helping teachers and educators and not for-profit systems. We also could take a look at higher education and why the hell it has skyrocketed (administration costs) at such a horrifying rate.

While I respect the idea of self-improvement and fighting for what you want, there is also a lot to be said for the people that can’t afford to meet their basic needs. It’s expensive to survive and to have kids and when a family can barely pay their bills month to month, it’s hard to see where the next spa day and yoga retreat are coming to calm the mind.

There are little things every day that improve one’s mindset when facing hard odds, but at the end of the day we must ask if this is the continued existence we want and want for our children, or are we going to fight to make sure everyone has more opportunities?

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This was one of the first things I saw this morning:

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It really struck me too. Because it’s something so basic and simple, but yet it’s happening. These things are either being tucked away and hidden or new nastiness is seeping through the cracks to the mainstream.

Right before the election I head an analyst describe the Trump movement like fracking, we had tapped into a hidden oil stream. Except this time, it’s a sludge of hate, bigotry, lies, racist and misogyny and still people are making a lot of money on it.

Back to the tweet.

Which is really a picture of what Amy Siskind posted on her Facebook:

1. Acts of hate – for the first 400 per SPLC, I could name many that I had seen covered by the media. Then I noticed the count exceeded 700, and I realized I knew very little about those additional 300.
2. Reporters critique their own paper’s coverage of Trump, then delete it (see attached which disappeared overnight, after 2k+ retweets).
3. A president-elect is openly (on Twitter!) trying to take away our freedom of expressions, First Amendment rights: targets this week include SNL, NYT and Hamilton.
4. The media, including traditional media, covered an alt-right conference and published their demands, which included a ban on immigration for 50 years of anyone not white, and an all white nation.

5. Major media following Trump’s reality show storylines, instead of reporting as traditional media/journalism.

6. Democrats advocating for a Mitt Romney appointment to SOS [secretary of state] – a man with whom we agree on almost nothing on policy, but because he is competent and not a racist or a bigot.

7. The pace of untraditional, unorthodox acts, and conflicts of interest by Trump are coming so fast and furious, they’re barely getting coverage.

8. Utter outrage by the left at the complacency and largely silence of our elected leaders. Watch of a Tea Party-esque type uprising.

9. A request for tolerance for, and understanding of, white supremacists.
What observations would you add?

Let’s pick this apart, and let’s be honest about what is happening right now with “media” and with the coverage of this election.

Really, and fully, the media didn’t think we would be where we are now. Those that wanted it, now have it, and those like Breitbart are celebrating because they are getting free coverage of their issues. Their issues are amalgamations of “research” by a non-profit that Mr. Breitbart owns, that he has sent to media organizations to get coverage on. Which elevates his non-profit and then Breitbart can turn around and make sensational and ridiculous articles on. Making a strong, never-ending money making oil that has pulled many a good journalist into the mix. On the Media analyzed this today, which you can listen to here. All around you have someone that was very skilled in media manipulation and he won the game. He denied the presidency from someone that was actually skilled and delivered it soaked in sludge for the American public to devour.

The problem is that we didn’t start talking about this, really, actively talking, until now.

We let Trump dominate our news streams and say horrible things, and NOW we’re seeing the depth of his work and his plan to get where he is now.

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As someone with a MA in journalism, I am literally screaming on the inside that more was not done to analyze this relationship. This is also where I say, WE NEED BETTER JOURNALISM PRACTICES!

WE NEED LONG FORM JOURNALISM AGAIN

WE NEED REAL JOURNALISTS DOING JOURNALISM- meaning people with education, experience and standards

WE NEED TO HOLD PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AND STATEMENTS- something we obviously didn’t do enough of with Trump because we didn’t take him seriously. Which means we also need to TAKE EXTREMIST GROUPS SERIOUSLY AND CALL THEM OUT.

AND I do not mean groups outside of the country, no I mean the ones that are our neighbors that hide behind confederate flags and Facebook memes.

Things have changed on a personal level for me. And maybe I have just had it with being bullied in my life from employers and “friends” and ignorant assholes online. I’ve changed and I’ve had it and that means that I have been actively not taking crap anymore. Which means I am butting heads with more people, where before I would walk away or not say anything. I’m sick of being a “nice girl” and never getting anywhere so I’m done with it, and I want to demand accountability. This means that I have been called names on social media and bullied.

I pissed off one guy for calling him out on his ignorance on the definition of “Celtic” peoples. I admittedly called him a douche. But instead of even reacting to my comment, he instead tweeted out my name to his 34,000 followers. Who decided to start attacking me in his name. I was told I was ugly and stupid and that my money spent getting my BA and MA would have been better spent on plastic surgery.

Other comments I have made on simple things such as a New Yorker comic, which was today, in that I liked the comic. Someone decided I needed to be called a LibBitch due to the way I wrote “You.Made.My.Day.”.

These are only two examples of the hundreds of statements I’ve heard since I was a teenager, including: Feminazi, libTard etc. Granted there have been others that were meant to be offensive such as dyke and cunt, but I don’t find those all that offensive, so…..

Even if these little things have happened to me, little things because they’re done behind a safety blanket of social media, they don’t matter that much. They sting a little. I’m getting a thick skin from this year. Yet, they’re VERY small potatoes compared to the OVER 700 crimes committed that are considered hate crimes in the last WEEK-AND-A-HALF. Crimes that involved physical assault and the ruining of property. Crimes that have threatened safety and families. Disgusting, cowardly and horrendous crimes that are creeping out of the sludge.

And like Siskind points out, our lack of thorough and high-quality journalism has meant that we worry more about Hamilton (a musical I LOVE btw) “offending Trump” than we are about the hate-crimes committed or the human rights violations dealing with the Dakota Access Pipeline.

While giving air-space to people like Richard Spencer, we’re not taking the time to fact-check and deeply discuss what people like him are saying and what it means that they’re saying these things. We’re not looking at these White-Supremacist meetings as anything serious, yet that’s how we got here in the first place. We’re not freaking out about Trumps administration because we’re distracted by all the other sludge he’s drowning us in.

And maybe, just maybe, we all (us historians and journalists and and left-leaning peoples) feel so low and shaken by this election that we are wanting to be optimistic and play by the rules of nice. Yet, as someone that has always played nice for 25 years and I’m regretting it, I say we only play nice when others are also going to follow the rules. So far, the Trump-ites are not, and I am refusing to play nice while we descend into allowing such extreme ideas become the norm. I refuse to let the sludge become a part of our normal existence, and you should too.

Keep track of the changes. Speak out. Refuse to be idle.

Ask and you’ll receive, but what about gratitude?

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I love the concepts presented in the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Ask for what you want the universe will grant your wish and you will be happy and flourish. Which is a great and simple way of explaining hard work, good friends and sometimes privilege.

This isn’t to bash Amanda Palmer or call her philosophy bull shit, but it’s to point out the flaws in such thinking in the wider picture of what I feel are first world problems and ideas. We, as americans tend to believe that we are owed certain things in life. Which no doubt our upbringing and encouragement in public schools enhances that thought process.

We are told, “you can be anything you want to be” which may be true for some people, but for others the goal is extremely hard to reach, if not completely unattainable. It’s unrealistic to believe someone like me that struggles with math is ever going to be an astronaut. Or that someone that struggles with reading will ever be president. It’s not that they couldn’t even do those jobs, but that it’s not realistic that those expectations exist. The reality is that different people’s brains work differently and that some things just aren’t going to happen. Dreams are important, but so is humility and accepting you are poor at something is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, some of the bigger constraints come with our racially and class divided world. Though America tries to label itself as a land of opportunity, it is extremely hard for kids in poverty, or that are part of a minority to get ahead in a way that is on par with their white counterparts. Go here for more information. Beyond anything you are born into sometimes life is just hard. Parents don’t always step-up how they should. Kids don’t always have good encouragement. Some kids suffer with learning disabilities that go unaddressed for years. But this isn’t about education, it’s so much more.

Now I believe that all people deserve educational opportunities and the chance to thrive no matter what they are born into. If we could eradicate global poverty imagine what could get done! And my hope is that humanity will get there one day. Yet in the meantime we need to think about our advantages and be thankful for what we have in our life.

This does not mean we stagnate anything in the advancements of people, or give up on causes, but rather let’s assess how we get anywhere.

We get places because of others. We get places because of our race, and our class and our parents, and how well those things work together to get us through childhood. If those things don’t work together, then let’s hope you have 2/3 or 1/3. Then if not those maybe someone believed in you. Maybe someone worked two jobs so you would have enough food and clothes to wear. Maybe someone gave you free rides to a job, or stayed up all night tutoring you.

Regardless, we rely on other’s and their ability to share their resources with you. So my point back to Amanda Palmer and others is, let’s remember to thank every person that buys a song, and that gives us a cheap apartment. Unfortunately that was what put me off of her book, and why I only read a third of it. It all sounded like a love letter to herself and why she got what she did, not the reality of a massive fan base and supportive relationships.

Let’s thank our parents for keeping us out of debt for school, or for helping us manage it if they can’t. Let’s thank people in our society that have worked for civil rights and have fought for decades to improve working conditions, or women having a right to vote and work. Let’s applaud those benevolent wealth holders that support campaigns to support cancer research and hospitals. All of these things make the world go round.

So let us not forget that when we ask and receive, remember there is someone else on the line. Or when someone asks from you, remember when you asked too. If we all considered this aid system, if we all tried a little harder to hand-out and not just take, then equality may just be more prevalent. I know I sounds like a socialist (okay I kind of am one) but the reality is that human advancement comes with working together. It comes with checking our privilege and making sure we don’t use it to oppress others. It comes with speaking out and helping others up, not with stomping on toes.

No doubt most of you practice many of these principles, but I ask you to really think too how others have helped you in the smallest ways, and pay it forward. Just thank those that have been there. Thank them publically and thank them vocally. Even a cup of coffee can change someone’s life. It has mine.

Thank you for reading, sharing, subscribing and caring about my work!

Rebecca Lee Robinson