Friday, June 5, 2015

Loser Talk

Although satire, this "Kelly" cartoon does make a point.  Whining on about the "oppressive evil corporations" never solves your personal problems in life.   And it doesn't do much to reform the oppressive evil corporations, either.

In a previous posting, I mentioned off-hand:
"And these rules weren't created by accident or fostered by the "greedy insurance companies" (if you still think in phrases like that, you are destined to be broke the rest of your life, by the way)"
And I think it is a comment that bears expanding upon.   Are people losers because they talk like this, or are they talking like this because they are losers?   I think it is a little of both, as the loser-attitude will surely make you a loser in the long run.

What sort of things am I talking about?   Well, you know the drill, as you've heard it from family, friends, and co-workers, and maybe you've even said these things yourself.   We all do at some time.
"Wal-Mart is evil, I would never shop there!"

"The Chinese are going to take over our country!  They own all our debt and will call it in one day, then what will we do?"

"I only buy American cars!" (said while leaning up against a truck made by an Italian company, assembled in Mexico).

"Those foreigners are taking away our jobs!"

"Immigration is destroying this country!"

"We should go back to the good old days!"

"The problem with America is the greedy people on Wall Street are taking away all our money!"
And so on and so forth. 

What is wrong with these sayings?   Well, some of them are factually wrong, such as the immigration thing.   The same phrase is also ironic, as it is usually spouted by someone whose ancestors were immigrants - not long ago.   Even the ones that might have a sliver of truth to them are dangerous, as they are just excuses to externalize your problems.

Losers externalize.   They blame their problems on everyone else.   It isn't their fault they got fired from their job - some "immigrant" took it away.  Or maybe one of those minorities they hired on a "quota" or something.   There is always an excuse - usually some intractable, unseen force at work, that made them a victim in life.

They never look inward to see whether going out on strike for six years (yes, it has happened) was maybe the reason their jobs were outsourced.   Maybe showing up late, leaving early and stealing from the company are to blame.

Nah.  Has to be immigrants.

Externalizing is for losers.  And losers always look for excuses for their own failures, rather than own up to them.   And owning up to failure is hard to do - but it is a profitable enterprise.   I have failed early and often in life, and my failures are what educated me and made me the person that I am.   It would have been easy to blame my failures on others (and we all do, to some extent) but deep down, I know that in every situation where I have failed spectacularly, it was largely my own malfeasance at work.

And I learn from this and move on.   For example, not smoking pot all day turned out to be a good move, as smoking pot all day was what got me tossed out of prep school, high school, and college.

Others, including my own siblings, took a different tack.   Smoking pot wasn't the source of their problems (and indeed, they still smoke it, in large quantities).   No, it was the evil corporation they worked for, their asshole boss, or the fact that marijuana is illegal.   It was always someone else's fault they failed to save for retirement or that success eluded them or a marriage was failing.

And when you take this externalization route, well, nothing ever changes because you are always right all the time about everything and thus, you never change your course, and sail off the edge of a cliff in all your evil-corporation hating glory.

Some of course, take this further, and go out in a blaze of gunfire.

Yes, it is hard to say, "I was wrong about a lot of things" but in life, we end up being wrong most of the time.  As I have noted, we are very inefficient beings, operating at a 1-2% efficiency on a good day.   Our robot overlords will no doubt do better, as soon as we get around to inventing them.

Loser talk is a dead-end.   And hanging out with people who engage in loser-talk is also a dead-end.   If your friends are spouting the drivel listed above, chances are, you'll start spouting it too.   And this will make you unattractive as a mate, a friend, and an employee.

And then there is the hypocrisy factor.   One gentleman tells me he "never buys anything made in China!" as the Chinese, for some reason, are no good.   But the joke is on him, as almost half of everything he owns is made in China or has components made in China.   For example, the iPhone he e-mailed me that missive from.   Or half the parts in his "Made in the USA!" car, or all the crap he buys at the wholesale club.

Saying crap like that doesn't make you smart, it doesn't affect our trade relations with China one iota, it doesn't "preserve jobs in America" - it does nothing but make him an old crank and a hypocrite of the first order.   It also makes him real fun at parties.

We live on a beautiful retirement island that the State of Georiga just spend millions and millions refurbishing.  New parks, miles of new bike paths, new stores, new hotels, a new convention center, and so on.   And by law, 2/3 of the island has always remained undeveloped.  So all this improvement and no over-development.   It is a beautiful paradise vacation spot.

Not to hear the "locals" tell it!   And I've seen the same thing in every vacation town.   One gentleman bent my ear at the Club Hotel bar (where drinks are half-price, every Wednesday evening) about how rotten it all was, just beneath the surface.  He was an angry, bitter misanthrope, who stayed at home all day, ate at chain restaurants on the mainland, and refused to patronize any of the new businesses on the island because "they are all no good!".   Sort of like our "made in China" guy, and I suspect he has similar feelings on that topic.

Or take another group of people who are outraged.   What are they outraged about?  The war in Syria?  Beheadings by ISIS?  Child brides being gang-raped in India?  Vladmir Putin starting World War Three?

No.  They are outraged that the hotel has beach chairs and umbrellas - get this - on the beach and uses a golf cart to haul them on and off the beach in the morning and night.   This is, we are told, a gripping issue that will destroy our world.

What makes people feel this way?   Like with hoarding disorder, it is a desire to save the world and I guess we all do this to some extent (maybe why I write this blog?  Fatwa on me!).   

The problem with this mentality is that often the world doesn't need saving, and more often, the efforts to "save" things don't really accomplish much.  Sadly, these "Save the World" types are usually the first to pat themselves on the back when things go their way, not because of their actions, but because of other factors.

For example, in 2008, "Linger Longer Developers" proposed a plan to revitalize our island, including a huge hotel on the beach.   It was kind of ugly and it went nowhere because in 2009 the economy collapsed and "Linger Longer" could barely keep up with its existing projects, much less develop new ones.   So a smaller and more appropriate plan was made - although still extensive and still hated by residents.

But the "We Saved The Island" people will tell you that it was their yard signs that did the trick!  And yes, this is narcissism of the first order.

The reality is, of course, that the island is a nice place to visit, or even live, and the new buildings, parks, bike paths and hotels are beautiful, and the ones they replaced were literally rundown roach hotels with rats in the kitchens.   Revitalization was long overdue.  Buildings have a design life.  And cheaply made buildings from 1970, sitting next to the ocean, definitely fall apart over time.

But the hypocrisy factor goes beyond this.  How many people decry "the evil corporations" while at the same time work for one or are applying for a job with one?   You can't have it both ways.   How many people decry how evil the government is, while at the same time work for it?   How many people tell you that "government spending" needs to be cut, but at the same time have put their house in a Medicaid Trust, so they can have the government pay for their nursing home care?  We all want it both ways, don't we?

And while we're on the subject, how many people decry the "evil corporations" but at the same time are shareholders of them?    We all decry profit, that is, until the quarterly reports come out, and then we are incensed that Acme corporation's profits have dropped from 5% to 3%.

Oh, right, that's another point.   Most companies out there have piss-poor profits.   The "loser talk" is that companies are raking in Billions in profit and that it is all unfair.  But if you look at P/E ratios of most companies, few are making more than a 5% return on their investment (a P/E ratio of 20, which would be considered low!) while most are making far less.

But to hear the losers tell it, everyone else is swimming in a Scrooge McDuck Money Vault.

But all of that really doesn't matter.  What matters is what is on your own plate, on your own table, and in your own bank account.   You can't get ahead in life railing against life.   You can't "make a difference" by chosing paper over plastic, either.   You can, however, keep your eye on the ball, and think long and hard about the decisions you do make and how they affect your life far more than the evil corporations or conspiring governments, or immigrants or minorities do.