[Lawrence has just extinguished a match between his thumb and forefinger. William Potter surreptitiously attempts the same]
William Potter: Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The more advanced man becomes- the more relief from pain is expected. In fact, at this point it's a form of entitlement. This is true for all facets of our lives. It is also true, that Americans, more than anyone else, expect a pain-free life.
This thing we call American life should never hurt, but life comes with unavoidable pain. In the meantime, the avoidance of pain can actually make things worse. Nociceptor Neurons are special pain sensors that begin the process of alerting the brain.
It would be nice if we didn't burn our finger holding onto a lit match too long, but it's a better alternative than burning our entire hand or arm. It would be great if we never had to suffer a broken heart, but how would we know or appreciate true love?
What if we could erase the functionality of our Nociceptor Neurons in all aspects of our lives? This seems to be the promise of those looking to remake America into a fair country. Free healthcare suggests less physical pain; confiscation of wealth means no envy; redistribution of cash means no financial pain; and a guilt-free, accountability-free society should mitigate any spiritual pain, or obligations. Heaven would be here on earth.
It's one hell of a promise. It's a false promise. It's a lie.
The things we do put us on a collision course with pain, but it's that hurt that builds foundations. In the new fair world, rewards are lavished without regard to effort or achievement; and certainly without the hurt that comes from sacrifice and risk. When politicians talk about a life without want- what they're saying is you can avoid being hurt. What they aren't saying is you have to hurt others; dismantle the foundation of the nation, and begin to move backwards as a nation. I suspect this is how many see the modern man, the modern society, and the modern belief system.
Haven't Got Time for the Pain
There is no way America can remain the top nation in the world by dismantling its success. Still, it's happening, albeit against the backdrop of the broad failure of western nations that mask the pain. When the masses cry, it "hurts." The retort is it could be better; we are doing better than Europe and Japan. For those nations, politicians are busy telling them not to mind the hurt, and that's next for the United States. If we can change and embrace the notion of free- markets and meritocracy, this will not only push the cream to the top but, bring everyone else along for the ride. For now, we must find a way to mind, to care, and to voice dissatisfaction when it hurts.
That, however, doesn't mean we avoid pain that comes with mistakes. It's time to stop masking them.
When we were told we can have a Band-Aid, like the Federal Reserve pumping trillions into banks and our profligate government, and claim somehow that it helps Main Street, is a lie. In fact, the idea has taken hold that banks come first. Of course, it would be painful if a couple big ones fail, but after the panic and healing process, we'd be a better nation, because creative destruction applies to all phases of society. Tossing 50 million people on food stamps can be sold as caring, but it attempts to mask failed economic policies. Unlimited unemployment benefits can be sold as a Christmas blessing, but eroding skills and initiative are a lifelong curse.
The House passed a budget deal that promises to avoid government shutdowns in return for less spending discipline - we're told it's a great deal because the nation avoids pain; we're supposed to feel that pain. It's like grabbing a hot skillet and the pain doesn't reach your brain. Our bodies are designed specifically to respond to hurt, early and often, so we stay alive. Right now, it's all about avoiding that pain; it's all about lying to ourselves or suspending disbelief, which emboldens would-be leaders to follow a path that never seeks true resolution.
America is at a crossroad. We must decide if we're okay with learning the trick of not minding when it hurts. Or, do we simply suck it up, and accept the pain? Considering how much pain Main Street has endured, it's time to demand that the power structure accept pain too. It's time to demand our neighbors find and pull up their bootstraps. It's time to get back to the basics. In the end, it's not only going to hurt politicians and those who want a different country; one that has never been America. It will hurt us all.
Proof in Pudding
This morning, manufacturing data from Europe underscored the central message of why (formerly) great nations should never resolve to dismantle them for the sake of fairness. As the rest of Europe, including some of the worst basket cases turn the corner France is fading farther behind. This morning Financial Times called it the "sick man" of Europe and sadly it's created an atmosphere where the right medicine cannot be administered. Free markets, low taxes, smart regulations and embracing the brilliance of today and tomorrow rather than living in the past is the magic elixir.