If someone says “it’s always been that way,” — it’s time to change.
I loathe hearing people say “Well, that’s just the way it is. It’s always been that way.” This attitude lacks creativity or inspiration. It lacks self-activation. In the best of uses, it’s a weak defense of the status quo (which may have it’s own merits) and in the worst of uses, complete abdication of the human spirit.
Or maybe the American spirit. Could be that my nurture has instilled this perspective and that it has nothing to do with human nature. I don’t really care. My life and the world are better for people who rejected the notion that “it has always been that way.”
In a previous post I suggested that much of the rest of the world sees Americans as loud, boorish, and lacking finesse or style. Basically, as Kid Rock. However, that’s not right. Not even close. I think we’re much more like Naven Johnson. And I’d take a culture of Naven’s over Kid Rock’s any day!
Naven was born in poverty and rose to the top echelons of the socio-economic scale by being blind to “it’s always been that way.” His curiosity, ingenuity, and belligerent willingness to take risk embodies everything that is great about the American spirit. Perhaps he was a little dim witted but success doesn’t always require a high IQ. It requires active participation, trying, failing, trying again, failing again. It requires improving on a design or asking “what if...?” If “these cans are defective!” — improve them. If you get your name in print, celebrate! (Even if it’s the phone book.) Opinions and improvements don’t make you boorish or loud — it makes you a participant in the world you live in.
“The world is run by people who show up.”
A bumper sticker on my moms car.
One of the most befuddling things I encounter here in England is a shoulder shrug and “Typical. But it’s always been that way.” This is frequently uttered by a trades person, a plumber who’s dad was a plumber and who’s grandfather was a plumber. The skills, even the tools, passed on from generation to generation.
For all the woes of the American culture, government and our current role as the worlds bully, this is one thing that we’ve gotten right. Perhaps it’s because we’re still a young country (from an Anglo-Saxon perspective, not from a native peoples perspective.) Perhaps it’s because the europeans who originally settled were risk takers and needed to be active participants to survive. Regardless, our inability to simply accept the status quo is the engine that drives so much of the success of the good ol’ US of A!
This might be the “nature” of Americans — but lets not overlook the “nurture.” The ability to reject the status quo, to move between classes, to do better than your parents requires two critical things. First, it requires free markets where you can gain the economic, social, and intellectual rewards for the effort. Even China is recognizing the power of free markets and rewards at the individual level and they’re using it to become a dominant force in the world economy. Sure, markets can run amok but if you think that we could have the kind of success we’re accustom to without free markets, you’re mistaken. Second, it requires a stable set of rules of engagement. This is commonly known as a “government” — who’s role is to establish the field of play and ensure that play is fair. Equal rights for minorities and women are critical to fair play. Protection of choice is critical to fair play. Safety and security — like getting guns off the streets — is critical to fair play. Establishing a healthy and educated population is critical to fair play. The bible has nothing to do with fair play, or the torah, or the koran. Fair play isn’t owned by any single religion.
America has run the free market economy experiment and it’s a success. We’re falling down a little on the rules of engagement. Economically — we’re still doing better than any other country and are the default currency for the worlds trading floors. Socially — we’re a mess. Any time Trump can get that much air time by saying things that even he believes are ridiculous it’s a sign we’re off track.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ll take it. But I won’t accept that “it’s always been that way” when it comes to the rules of engagement. I’ll keep calling these cans defective and I’ll keep looking for the Opti-grab of fair play.