The Myth Of Self-Determination
– by David Matthews 2
There once was a young boy who firmly believed that he could fly like Superman. He used to watch the old Superman TV programs and saw George Reeves take a running start and then fly away into the clouds with a loud “Woosh”. If George Reeves could do that, then anyone can.
So this young boy would try everything possible to be able to fly. He would sprint, leap, jump off ledges, do everything in his mind to “will” himself to fly. He even got a Superman costume with cape and thought that it would allow him to fly. After all, that’s what the Warner Brother cartoon characters did! They got an “Acme Flying Guy” costume and suddenly they could fly!
And no matter how many times he would fail, he firmly believed that he could somehow fly. He just didn’t run fast enough or leap high enough. He just didn’t want it bad enough or “will” himself hard enough to make it happen.
Eventually this young boy realized that it wasn’t a matter of how bad he wanted it; he just wasn’t going to fly. Period. He found out that Superman could fly because he was an alien from a planet with a different sun and a heavier gravity. George Reeves never could fly; he was just held up on his stomach in front of a movie screen with a wind tunnel sound being played making it sound like he was flying through the air. And the Warner Brothers cartoon characters could fly wearing “Acme Flying Guy” costumes because… well, because they’re cartoon characters.
But imagine what it would be like if that young boy didn’t come to that realization. Imagine what that young boy would be trying to do if he didn’t find out that he could not fly like Superman, no matter how hard he “wanted” to.
Actually, we don’t have to wonder, do we?
No, because we see plenty of it from adults as well.
There isn’t a year that does not go by without at least one story of a young child dying because his or her parents decided that prayer was all that their sick or injured child needed in order to survive. Not medicine, not bandages, just prayer. And if the child dies? Well then the parents just didn’t pray hard enough, did they? After all, God supposedly answers all prayers; all you have to do is pray hard enough and long enough and your prayers will be answered.
A good majority of the people will tell you that this kind of thinking is asinine. And yet, like I said, there isn’t a year that goes by that we don’t hear of at least one story about parents that let their child die because of it.
But this isn’t just some “fringe” dysfunction. In fact, we’re hearing it more and more frequently now from the conservative and neo-conservative groups.
For instance… were you one of the millions that lost their job since 2008? Finding it hard to get work?
Well then that is all your fault, according to the conservative and neo-conservative script!
You see, according to the script, work is simply a matter of your will and determination to get a job. There are supposedly “plenty” of jobs out there for you to work. The cons and neo-cons will point you to the Want Ads to say there is “plenty” of work. All you have to do is “apply” yourself to finding a job and you’ll supposedly “get” one.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not qualified for that work. It doesn’t matter if some payroll and employment service has declared that anyone who doesn’t find work after a certain number of months is “unemployable”. It doesn’t matter if you’re over a certain age. It doesn’t matter if the company is posting the ad doesn’t really have work available.
No, according to the script championed by conservatives and neo-conservatives and newspaper editors and cable news channels, it is all just a matter of your “will” and “self-determination”. You just have to “want” it bad enough and it will somehow be there for you.
And if you can’t find work? Well then it’s “your” fault because you didn’t “want” it bad enough or try “hard enough”. You must be “lazy” or “using drugs”. You’re just a “taker” or a “moocher”. A “deadbeat”. A “loser”.
You think I’m kidding? Just listen to the rhetoric from the cons and neo-cons. Open up the editorials in your local newspaper. Turn on Fox News or Bloomberg or CNBC. You’ll hear that script be recited over and over and over again like Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth.
Listen to the politicians, the elected grifters and shysters that preen themselves up like peacocks when the discussion comes to extending unemployment benefits to the people still looking for work. They won’t necessarily have an “R” next to their name, but they will certainly channel their best Ayn Rand impersonation as they condemn those still out of work as being “quitters” and “weak”. You’re just not “trying hard enough” in their eyes. You supposedly need incentive. You need to be drug-tested. You need to suffer and be degraded and condemned because you just aren’t “trying hard enough”.
Like the parent that thinks all they need is to “pray harder” for their sick child instead of taking them to the hospital.
And this is not some new trend. This is an extension of a rather old delusion that claims that “success” – no matter how you define it, for all you smartasses out there that hate that I’m exposing this little myth – is simply a matter of your “will” and “determination”. “You can do whatever it is you want to do,” they would chant endlessly, “if you just put your mind to it.”
Really? Because I was that young boy that once believed that he could fly like Superman. And no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I put my mind into it, no matter how much I willed myself to fly, I couldn’t. “Whatever it is”, you say? To hell it is, I say!
As an adult, I have come across many a supposed “multi-tiered” or “multi-level” or “poly-phased” business “program” - which goes under many names as long as they don’t have to admit that it’s a pyramid scheme - that takes the myth of all-powerful self-determination to another level. It tries to sell the idea that anyone can be a salesperson and be able to sell not only a product, but to also sell the idea that you can recruit other people to be a salesperson to sell the same product. And all of this “success” is supposedly only limited to your “will” and your “self-determination”. Except that it doesn’t work like that. And I’ve seen that on more than one occasion by people that had all of the self-determination in the world and yet got nothing in return but aggravation.
Let’s get brutally honest here… while determination and will help propel a person forward, these thing alone are not enough. No amount of will and determination can command the fates and forces of the universe to do your bidding, never mind the will and determination of other human beings.
I do not have the power to force a company to hire me, no matter how bad I “want” that job. I can convince them I have the tools, but they have to first “want” to consider me. I can send out a million-billion resumes, make phone calls, shake hands, go down each and every business and personally ask if they’re willing to hire me, but if they all say “no”, then there is nothing I can do to change that, no matter how much I “want” them to hire me.
So you tell me… if the final power of employment is not in my hands, then why am I being burdened with the end result?
Essentially what this myth of self-determination does is it shifts the ultimate responsibility away from those with the power to make it happen. It’s “our” fault if we don’t find work, while the people that pride themselves as “job creators” take no responsibility whatsoever in actually creating those jobs and are not held to account when they refuse to. Instead, they get rewarded, while we’re branded as being “lazy” and “drug-addicted” and lacking those mythical “soft skills”. That should be a crime against humanity itself if there ever was one.
Much like the over-religious parents that delude themselves into believing that prayer can substitute for medicine, we have been suckered into a delusion that “self-determination” is all that we need to get what we want. But beating yourself against a societal wall doesn’t always make the wall break, no matter how much you “want” it to. It takes others to help make it happen. Otherwise you’re just bashing your own head in for nothing but the merriment of those that get off playing such games on us.