Self-respect isn’t a handout

Maybe it’s the capitalist in me, but I thought people ‘deserve’ that for which they work.

March 3, 2010 21:01
3 minute read.
taking cash out of wallet 88

paying money wallet 88. (photo credit: )

The cheers for New Orleans’ Super Bowl win were everywhere. Regardless of their own allegiances, people were genuinely happy for the Big Easy’s team. The city was destroyed only a few years earlier when the levees broke. But last month the Saints claimed America’s Vince Lombardi trophy – and the hearts of many.

People were happy there. And people everywhere – with the possible exception of Indianapolis – were happy for them. I can understand the smiles and cheers. Being happy for those who underwent something horrible but now have reason to smile is a good thing.

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But I kept hearing people say that New Orleans, after suffering the devastation of Katrina, deserved the championship. I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s the capitalist in me, but I thought people deserve that for which they work. The amount of effort put into achieving a goal, as well as the results of that effort – those are the means by which we assign deservedness, are they not? If suffering is the measure by which we decide how much one is deserving of something, we Jews have quite the championship coming.

I hear it often in this country of ours. University students deserve to study for free because they are the future. Apparently bus drivers, police officers and postal workers without college degrees aren’t part of the future. Poorer citizens deserve financial handouts. No one deserves to own an estate that is “too large,” no matter how hard that person or that family worked to acquire the home.

But ask a student who believes academia should be paid for by the rest – and who often times doesn’t realize that the state (i.e. you and I) already pays for a good portion of his tuition – if each citizen should receive funds equal to the cost of tuition, to do with as he pleases, and the answer is often “no.” It appears not everyone is equally deserving of everything.

OUR PROBLEM – and it is our problem – is that we have accepted the idea that we deserve something because we suffer. The state is seen as the provider who must ensure that our suffering is minimal. The provider, when it comes down to it, is simply the sum of all its parts – we the people.

Good-bye hard work. Good-bye self-reliance. Good-bye happiness for others.

We can’t be happy for someone when haves and have-nots are being compared. Be happy with one’s lot? No. We are a nation that struggles. Always. We built a state to save ourselves, and now we are giving our souls over to the idea that we each deserve everything.

Maybe some people deserve a little more. Maybe the guy who heads off to reserve duty deserves a bit more than the kid who shrugged off military service. Maybe the person working a shift job deserves a raise a bit more than some family deserves a monthly child stipend.

Maybe our self-respect deserves to have its hard drive wiped so we can reassess what it means to truly warrant something.

The energy wasted on resenting others or simmering in anger for not having what we insist we deserve – that energy will kill us in the end.

Oh, it’s been a long, hard road for the Jews, especially Israel’s Jews. Yes, we deserve peace and quiet – that’s what every person alive deserves – because life is hard, not because we’ve endured with assistance from above, showing everyone that this stubborn nation is alive and strong.

Most of us work hard. Perhaps we’ll get to the point where all our efforts are recognized and rewarded. That reward should be given. But if some of us aren’t given what is deserved, it doesn’t mean we, the unappreciated, are entitled to the same had by those who succeeded in achieving the wealth we desire. Our nation deserves a citizenry not expecting anything we haven’t worked for.

As a lone immigrant, the writer, in full disclosure, received scholarships for university after his army service. He is an Internet editor on

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