This is a time when many of us are making wishes and resolutions for the New Year. Before I tell you my wish let me provide a little background by contrasting today's theory of how things work with what we believed in the past.
On September 21, 1939, a CBS radio station recorded its daily broadcast from sunrise to sunset. These radio recordings were placed in a time capsule to be opened in the year 2000. In the magazine article where I read about the content of these recordings, I was first struck by the similarities with today: soap operas, baseball games, game shows, news programs and, of course, commercials. But I also noticed differences and one item particularly grabbed my attention.
At the end of his regular radio show, famous comedian Joe E. Brown gave this advice to students: "Work hard at your studies. That's the only way you'll ever amount to anything." The writer of the article said this about Brown's comment: "He seems to feel that if you amount to nothing, it might be your own fault. In 1939 this strange idea was widespread."
In the decades since 1939, we have moved away from the concept of individual responsibility. Our current theory is that success or failure is a result of social conditions. Those who don't succeed are simply held back by the biases of a cruel society.
Can you imagine anyone today making a public comment like Brown's? If a television entertainer made such a public statement, the flood of complaints that followed would surely force a public apology and probably cause sponsors to cancel their support.
In 1939, an employee who failed to get a promotion or salary increase might have tried to improve their job performance or, possibly, look for another job. Today, they would file a grievance with a government agency. And, because a large segment of the population has bought the theory that citizens are simply pawns moved about by societal conditions, the Federal government has been able to implement so many controls on private companies as well as special preference programs, that it has essentially become a wet-nurse.
If people can be made to believe social conditions have more power than individual effort, their motivation as well as their work ethic diminishes. To make matters worse, our politically correct, non-judgmental philosophy provides them a rationalization for sloth. Their increased dependence on the state gives the state even more power over their lives as well as ours. Thus more freedoms are lost.
The feeling of individual responsibility empowers people whereas dependence on others debilitates them. Only the self-reliant can experience the gratification and pride that come from knowing one's achievements resulted from one's own efforts.
So my wish for the New Year is that we begin to scrap the "cruel society" alibi and wean people away from a maternal Federal government. I admit that this is a far-fetched wish but if enough voices join together, it may be attainable.
December 31, 2001