May 3, 2012

The Self-Made Myth

As I posted at the beginning of this year, I was interested in studying the role that government plays in our lives.  Obviously, that has fallen by the wayside--even with great assistance and information from people like Smitty--partly because I could not get a handle on the information.

Perhaps it has already been done.  Reading this on the "myth of the self-made man" and think this might be a good start.  I have several relatives who remind me of this story.  They see themselves as self-made, are angered by taxation, and just want others to work harder.  And they have worked hard--no doubt, but they aren't acknowledging the myriad ways that they have received help from others--because if they do, they will have to acknowledge the need to pass it forward.

Turns out this mythology is older than Horatio Algier.  In The Americanization of Ben Franklin, Gordon Wood argues that, in part, being "americanized" was to be a self-made man who had come out of poverty.  That was a new thing--coming from poverty was not a good thing before.  Of course, as he notes, Franklin wasn't actually self-made either.

But that mythology continues.  And it is a destructive mythology, unfortunately.  Not by encouraging hard work and effort, but by removing that group and community assistance that we all need.

1 comment:

steves said...

NPR had something on this the other day and it was compelling. I think there is room to look at and criticize regulations and laws that hurt or only benefit a select few, but the answer isn't to completely gut the system. People talk about the founding fathers, but forget that their were environmental laws back in the 18th century.