When I was in college, I had a classmate who loved to unleash melodious, profanity-laced tirades whenever he didn’t play up to his own standards. He was famous for this. One day, while playing for one of the conservatory’s more notoriously tough professors, he did this. The professor was not impressed. He said to the student, “You’re not good enough to get upset.”
Not good enough to get upset. I try to remember this whenever I have a bad run a day or so after drinking too much beer or eating too much cake. The contemporary tendency is to lean toward a megalomania which is encouraged by the empty-headed self-esteem that is taught in most places these days. This encourages an attitude of entitlement, which is certainly a dangerous thing. I can tell you that my worst performances as a musician have come at times when I thought that fate somehow owed me a better showing than I had earned through my own efforts.
You’re not good enough to get upset. There is more than one sports star that could benefit from hearing this, and more than a million people glued to ESPN who pick up on the childish behaviors of these stars and translate them to everyday life, where the rest of us are left to dealing with it all.
Another parallel jumps out at me, though. It relates, of course, to politics. Right now, America is dealing with a lot of things that suck: a poor economy, fascistic and socialistic dilutions of the free market, two failing wars—one of which is completely illegal and the other of which is utterly ill-advised, a political system which has descended into epithet-exchanges, an increasingly debased language (and I’m not talking about profanity), and a whole host of other things which presage the imminent collapse of this society.
The truth of the matter is that we had all of this coming to us, one way or another. The Federal Reserve, the New Deal, borrowing money from China, and widespread deficit spending have visited economic disaster upon us. American imperialism, snot-nosed self-righteousness, Messiah complexes (beginning not with Obama but with Wilson and championed by Bush the Lesser), and the like have have gotten us embroiled in a shaky situation that threatens the peace and well-being of most of the world. Parents and their children stare at idiot boxes for hours a day, while the average American reads less than four books a year—and who knows what the exact quality of these books really are.
And after all of this, we have the stubbornness and stupidity to shrug our shoulders and wonder why we’re in such bad shape these days and to insist, illogically, that we deserve better. We have, quite simply, asked for it, and we have no right to be upset about it. America has been sucking and rewarding mediocrity and downright corruption for years, and a situation like that cannot last forever. We are dealing with the consequences of a century of stupidity. Much human breath is expended upon America’s ability to regain the good will of the rest of the world, but a worse problem remains: We have to rebuild a society that has been existing for a hundred years on false pretenses. This is not going to be pretty.
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