Thingish Things

Dear Protesters: Life Isn’t Fair

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Oct• 09•11

Many years ago, while waiting for a bus to arrive in New York City’s grimy old Port Authority Bus Terminal, I picked up a tattered copy of Forbes “Richest Americans” that had been left behind on a bench.  It included short interviews with about a dozen titans of industry, who, in a nutshell, were asked to provide advice to America’s then dispirited youth on how to seize the future (this was circa 1983 when the future looked as economically bleak as it does today).

I remember a single passage, which was more admonition than  advice. It was from an angry-sounding old coot who had no patience for Americans of my generation, nor for his Forbes interviewer it seemed.  “Young people today,” he cantankerously began, “have to stop using adjectives and start using active verbs.”  That was it.  That was his advice.  It nearly knocked me off my seat in its simplicity: Adjectives will get you nowhere; active verbs anywhere. There, in a sentence, was the American genius.

I thought of that advice this morning while reading the slogans scrawled on signs in the various “Occupy” protests springing up around the country. They are filled with adjectives — mostly synonyms for “greedy” or “rich” – which, at the end of the day, are colorful, but bereft of any tangible meaning.  Meanwhile, the one thing these young rebels have actually accomplished stems from the single active (modern) verb around which they have been rallying: “Occupy.”  

I’ve been ambivalent about these protests from the beginning.  I can’t stand the professional agitators working to grow them; the public employee unions trying to steal them; the Michael-Moore-media-whores trying to capitalize on them, and the Nancy-Pelosi politicians trying to “understand” them.  And I cringe at the naiveté of those in the protest ranks who don’t yet know how badly they are being taking advantage of and how ridiculous they sound.  

But I do sympathize with that small percentage of protestors – if there are any of them left — who have done everything right so far in life and now feel screwed.  The ones who studied hard, didn’t do drugs, went to college, and are now massively in debt and without job prospects from no fault of their own.  Some just like them have come through my office doors in recent years looking for work, and I have done what I can to help them.  They are the best of America, and they have been burnt by the generations preceding them who charged trillions under their signatures.

There is an assumption among these Left-wing protests, though, that life is supposed to be fair.  It is the root belief of collectivism.  My advice to the young participants therein  is to disabuse themselves of that notion as quickly as possible. Men are not angels. There will always be “fat cats” in the office upstairs. There will always be the bigger house at the top of the hill. And there will always be fine print at the bottom of your cell phone bill.

Be kind to your neighbor, but never forget that it’s every man for himself at the end of the day (anyone telling you otherwise is taking advantage of you.)  That and adjectives will get you nowhere is all I’ve got. 

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  1. Daniel Suib says:

    Did that list you were reading in Forbes in 1983 have…your Uncle in it or was he the one you quoted as using to many adjectives and not enough active verbs. I can see him saying that.

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