The Hard Work Fallacy

In America, everyone has the opportunity to make it big. All it takes is hard work, a goal, and determination. That is the principle that made America unique. This principle is still taught in schools and propagated by the media. But it is false today. Before America, a person’s station in life was pre-determined by their family’s position. If you were born to the right person, you had power. Today it is not rank or station, but the inheriting of money that makes this true.

There have been times in our history when people can move up simply by hard work, but today that is not the case. Every time I hear an interview with any influential or famous person, the question comes up in some form, ‘How did you get where you are today’. Inevitably they will give themselves credit, ‘hard work and determination.’ Rarely do you hear people say ‘luck’ or ‘my parents’. The people who are in these positions believe that they are there because they worked harder than the others, so they deserve it more. This is what they need to tell themselves in order to make them feel entitled to what they have.

Some of them I have no doubt worked very hard, maybe even more than their peers. I do not believe that the fact that the CEO of the company who had their child ‘work their way up’ happened to have a child who got to CEO by chance too. It is a good thing that Jr. has experienced different jobs that they now supervise, but I have a very difficult time believing that their career was not fast-tracked. I do not believe that Justin Beiber worked harder for his ‘career’ than Joe Blo who quit his day job to practice in his garage and play every gig he can.

In the real world, people work as much as they need to. Many of them put a lot of effort into moving up their companies, or at improving their craft. What a person needs to survive comes down to some very basic things; shelter, food, and water. The people who have to work 40+ hours a week to get these things for their families work very hard. To quote David Siegel, CEO of Westgate, “I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive.” (Daily Kos). He is referring to the supposedly ‘socialist’ planned policies of Obama that support the worker by taxing the wealthy. He literally says that the people who work under him are ‘unproductive’ and that he, as the boss, is the ‘productive’ one. I’m sorry, but WTF?! By definition, the people producing things are being productive. The people he is insulting are the very people who are working so hard that he can afford his mansion.

The scary thing is that Mr. Siegel, and others like him actually believe that they work harder than the people who work under them. This is a twisted interpretation of the ‘hard work reaps rewards’ fallacy. This belief is what allows people to not pay their workers a decent wage. The boss thinks that because these people have not reached the same level of status and wealth, that they are lazy. This is what allows CEOs to make hundreds of times more than their employees do, because this is what makes is so that the CEO does not feel guilty about it.

I am not saying that the principle is bad. I strongly believe that everyone should get an even shot at success, and that effort should be rewarded. I am not posing a solution to the problem at the moment, but rather bringing attention to the fact that people believing the story for their own peace of mind is part of the problem.

I wrote a while back that I did not know why I continued to watch Undercover Boss. I think that I watch it because I hope that this experience will teach the bosses about the fallacy they have been living. What I keep seeing though is entitled people who think that the hardworking, struggling people that they meet are the exception, rather than the rule.

Even though I understand why those in power believe what they believe, I do struggle with why they cannot see that they were mistaken. In the last several years there has been a lot of media coverage and research that shows that people do struggle, and do work hard. I do not want to believe that the people in power are just evil, greedy thieves who want to watch the world burn. I think that they truly believe that they are right, and are justified in what they are doing. It is the challenge of admitting that they are wrong that keeps them clinging to something beautiful in principle, blissfully unaware that they are actively breaking down that principle with every check they cash, every pay raise that they refuse, and every time they think that just because they know someone that person is the best person for the job.

I would love to start a conversation about how we can go about bringing awareness to the powerful without the tried and failed method of simply shoving how wrong they are in their face.

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