Monday, December 16, 2013

The Myth of Doing It Alone

This is an amazing story of an American reporter writing about and then helping two Vietnamese kids. It's almost enough to melt my cold, cold misanthropic heart. Almost.

One thing, however, struck me as being absolutely wrong.

Right after he describes all of the things he's done to help out, Baker says the kid did it all by himself. Maybe it's just to flatter the kid, but it builds up the great American myth of the loner out there succeeding all by his lonesome. No one is an island. This boy's drive was absolutely critical to his success, but it wasn't the only part. He's had good teachers. He's had Billy Baker. Telling ourselves that people can achieve all by themselves just makes it that much harder to convince people that systems matter. Environments matter. People matter. We are all in this together and we need to invest in each other rather than saying, "Suck it up and pull yourself up, you loser. If you don't succeed, that just means you're not working hard enough." Again, I'm not saying that individual initiative is not important, but it's only one piece in the puzzle of achievement.

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