Wha'chu Gon' DO Now
"The one thing I know, everyone respects a true person and everyone's not true themselves. All these people who are heroes, the ones who have been lily white and clean all their lives, if they went through what I went through, they would commit suicide. They don't have the heart that I have. I've lived in places they wouldn't defecate in." -Mike Tyson I don't know anything about the source of that quote, when it's from or the question he was answering. What I do know is that Mike is right. There seems to be this need that we have to feel like we're somehow better than somebody else. Mike's an excellent example because his athletic ability led him to achieve both fame and fortune, which for most people, would be a dream come true. From the comfort of their own lives, they sit and pontificate about what Mike should do or should have done, and what they would have done differently if they were him. I know; I've done it myself many times. But when I read that quote, I started really thinking. Now, since 8th grade at least, I've firmly believed that if you took any random dude and put him into the same situations that I was in growing up that he would be in about the same place as me. Might do a little better, might not do quite as well, but our positions would be comparable. I never took that to the next level and imagined what it would be like to live somebody else's life, though. Now I'm neither "lily white" (although I'm fairly sure Mike didn't mean it solely in a racial sense here) nor a hero, but knowing what I do about Tyson's early life, if I imagine myself in those types of situations, it's hard to imagine a totally different outcome. Of course my life would be different from his in some respects; number one, I'm not 217 pounds and I can't knock people out with either hand. I don't think I would have committed suicide, but there's a strong chance I wouldn't have made it to 30. Of course, the rub is that every situation we see is the result of choices that we have made. Nature and nurture have their place, but in the end, whether because of nature, nurture, narcotics, or nimbus, we made decisions that put us into certain situations. It's tough to know what we would do under a different set of circumstances because our whole thought process is predicated on having seen and done the things we saw and did. I think sometimes when we conservative types talk about issues affecting poverty and poor people, we have tendency to look at it primarily from some abstract position, be it economic, theological, or some combination of the two. Of course people are in the positions they are because of the choices they made. Until they realize that, they will never have any agency in their own lives. But we have to do more than that. So what if I can shoot between water and wind to come up with an explanation for why people are poor and why it's not the result of some conspiracy to keep them poor? That's all well and good, but if it's not making a difference in anybody's life, if it's only about the attempt to make or defend some policy that our political adversaries don't like, then it's worthless. It's all cool to be analytical and make an argument explaining why the idea of a minimum wage or a "living wage" is actually more detrimental than helpful, but I still don't know what that does for people who work hard all week and still can't get by. Like the old saying goes, statistics don't lie, but they can't make a hen lay. I have said it before, and I will say it again, this is our best opportunity to make a difference in the community. The progressives, by and large, don't want to actually get out there and do it. They want to set up a catapult that will toss money at a situation, making the government responsible to make sure things get done. Legislate the situation away, nevermind the fact that legislation doesn't even begin to address the root of the issue. People don't just need governmental regulation and assistance, although some do need that. People need people. The conservative ideology is focused on operating at the individual level, but where are we when things are going down? We should be the main ones helping as literacy volunteers and tutors and building houses and soforth. It's a piece of cake for me to sit off to the side and say what's not working. Yeah, I can tell you that some public school's self-esteem program is a waste of time if the kid knows he can't multiply. If I'm not in there helping him to accomplish things so he will have a foundation on which to build his self-esteem, then what am I doing? You know, a while ago, I mentioned tutoring in a post. Didn't get very many comments, but the ones I did get only spoke on its ineffectiveness except as a tool for making the tutor feel good about himself. But think about it this way: if you were in that child's position, would you rather have somebody there ostensibly to help you, or would you rather that person decide that they couldn't make that big a difference anyway and stay home? What's more, you never know what kind of impact you're having. Even though it may seem like you're not getting through to that person when you can see them, what you're actually doing is planting a seed in their life. It's not necessarily going to show right away. It may never show. Shoot, unless you stay involved in that person's life, it will probably never show where you can appreciate it. Occasionally it does. Once I was at the mall and one of my most knuckleheaded students ran up on me talking about, "Mr. Tooley! I'm gettin' an 'A' in math!" Wasn't quite a fair tradeoff for all the grief he had given me when he was in my class, but it was nice. My point being, so what if I can't see how it's making a difference right away or within some time frame I've concocted? If it's about doing the right thing, then the result that's visible to me doesn't matter. Investing in another person's life is never the wrong thing. Maybe if Mike had had more investors who weren't primarily looking for their own return, he may be in a different situation right now.