4.20.2009

I'm Not A Spoiled Brat Either ... Or Am I?

In response to my earlier lament that my generation has no concept of what it means to sacrifice, HotMES responds with We're Not All Spoiled Brats.

Within the post, she essentially tells her life story, which--and this may come as a surprise--is in many ways like my own.

She had her first job when she was 12. I had my first job when I was 9. (And, I'm not talking allowance people).

Since our childhoods, neither she nor I have not been without a job. For her, it was babysitting and the local grocery store. For me, it was working as the janitor for my local realtor's office and my church. She earned her keep, and so did I.

I can particularly identify with this, so much so that I could have written it myself:

"I was responsible for me. There wasn’t any allowance or “Mom, can I get $20 to go see a movie?” There was me. Whatever I wanted to do was up to how much I worked for it."

She goes on to tell how she carried full loads in college while working two jobs that culminated in upwards of 40 hours a week. Ditto. (I'm beginning to wonder if we were somehow twins separated at birth.)

Interestingly, where we diverge is that I would say that none of that really makes me any less deserving of being grouped into the "spoiled" category. In my mind, the fact that I live in America where excess pervades even the lowest common denominator of society makes me almost automatically deserving of it.

The life pattern that Monique describes and that she and I have both followed is one marked by a forced responsibility beyond our years, a good ol' fashioned American work ethic, and the determination and willigness to make ourselves what we hope to be because we don't expect (and most likely wouldn't allow) someone else to do it for us.

To be willing to work and show a level of responsibility unknown to your peers may make you relatively unspoiled, but it isn't something you should be praised for. (It also doesn't mean you understand what it means to live with only the necessities, and not just niceties, of life.) The kind of guiding principles and decisions that, to Monique, preclude her from the "spoiled" category, to me should be a standard expectation. When they're not met derision should follow rather than gratuituous praise ensuing when they are met.

That said, to those who know my personal background, "spoiled brat" is never a phrase that would come into mind. And, having met Monique – she is a rare, genuine, down-to-earth sort – I would readily say the same for her. In conjunction, she notes, "I have sacrificed, more than, and less than, plenty of others in our generation." I am sure this is true. And, I would say the same for myself. Undoubtedly, most of you would as, well.

But this doesn't really get at the heart of my first post and my follow-up. I admit that Monique and I, because of our less-than-plenteous backgrounds and resulting work ethics, are less spoiled than many of our generation. Nonetheless, I still venture that we have little concept of what sacrifice truly means and meant for those of my grandparent's generation not so long ago. (That was the premise of my original argument, if you recall).

Further, I think the very fact that the natural response to being told we don't know what it means to really be in want--Yes, I do!--highlights our rather narrow perspective. I say "our" because as I was writing my original post, part of me, too, was rising up crying out for acknowledgement that "I do, too, know what it's like to be in need!"

There's something innate in man that demands his sacrifices to be acknowledged - however small - and his accomplishments to be noticed. So, while I would still aver that even those who have sacrificed "much" in our generation have sacrificed relatively little compared with many of the generations before us, I am not so ignorant of human nature that I am unwilling to stroke it politely for the sake of good will on earth, peace towards men, etc. etc.

Here goes: hotMES is not a spoiled brat. And neither am I. At least not in the usual and extreme sense of the word.

In another sense, living in the most prosperous nation in the world qualifies me, Monique, and probably you, too, for the "spoiled" category. (Or, maybe I should say "blessed.") And, if we acknoweldge our good fortune with appropriate gratitude, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Note: If you would like to give me the opportunity to become a spoiled brat in the usual and extreme sense of the word, my donate button awaits you on the right.

Update: If there wasn't enough reason to donate before, now I'm gunna Get Rich or Die Bloggin'.

Update: In the comment section, a reader who "gets it," illustrates my argument wonderfully. He tells the story of his grandfather, a child of the Depression. In comparison, he notes that his own life, although he has worked hard, has been marked by relative ease.

Update: Troglopundit takes a look at the spoiled/not spoiled issue and comes to a fair and balanced biased and unobjective conclusion. Despite this, as I said before he's a smart man and still worth a read.

1 comment:

  1. Last summer, I was "given notice" you might say, of just how blessed I've been my whole life. Like you, I had to work for everything I wanted to do while growing up -- though in my case it was pretty easy since my dad was self-employed and always had odd jobs for his business that needed doing (and which he will also admit he overpaid me for )-- but it was also never "can I have $$$ for a movie" or whatever.

    Even so... this past summer my grandfather died. I thought I knew him rather well, but it turns out I mostly only knew about his life from after he and my grandmother married in 1945. Barring the occasional war story of WW2, I didn't know much.

    He was an orphan, raised in an orphanage, kicked out at age 16 because he'd gradueated high school early. He got a job on a local farm, but the farmer beat him, so he ran away and was homeless for 2 years in the midst of the Great Depression. He was able to join the army once he turned 18, but only did it for a 2 year stint, then returned to homelessness after getting out. He eventually ended up rejoining the army -- there simply wasn't any other work available. He served in Libya and Italy in WW2 as a radio man for the Air Corps, and when the Air Force split off from the Army, he went with it, retiring as a Master Sergeant with 21 years of service.

    After leaving the military he began working 2 jobs 1 full time, 1 part time, while going to school and finishing his Accounting degree. He worked both those jobs until he was 78, and retired from his part time job at 85. It was like he didn't know what to do with himself if he *wasn't* working. I never thought of myself as "spoiled" but compared to him..... yeah, I've had it really easy.

    ReplyDelete