Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yes Virginia, There ARE "Lazy Americans!" (Conclusion)

Continued from Part 2

Let’s see now…we’ve explored the myth that Americans are not lazy from different perspectives. Americans are lazy when it comes to our children’ education. We routinely lower the educational standards instead of public school instead of raising expectations. We lazily teach for standardized testing instead of simply teaching concepts which foster academic literacy. We allow our children to routinely disrespect or even assault, teachers and staff in our public schools under the excuse that they have some sort of emotional and or/or psychological “condition.” We lazily tolerate particularly disruptive children to sap away the opportunity for the more stable children in our classrooms, under the mistaken belief that they have some sort of “right” to be there—bringing others down to their selfish level of uncaring and. We allow schools to adopt the misguided mandate to cater to students “needs’ rather than following the mandate to teach them. As a result, many students simply do not care if they pass their classes, as their poorly done work attest to.
Much of the laziness we produce in students/children is due lack of support in the home. As a former long-term substitute teacher in public schools, I witnessed many parent-teacher conference days where only one or two parents would actually show up to express concern for their children’ academic progress. Many of us lazily raise our children to embrace things rather than ideas. And they invariably develop an entitlement mentality rather than a sense of duty, an appreciation for hard work paying off, and a lack of patience; they want everything given to them now; perish forbid they’d have to actually make an effort and work for what they want. We permit them to smoke, drink, and otherwise become addicted to both substance abuse, and half-hearted efforts for most things which do not product instantaneous (and desirable) results. We defend their poor decision-making as being the result of having “issues.” We allow their intransigence to become the norm that we as adults have to adapt to, instead of the other way around.And in our relationships, laziness within ourselves prevents us—at every conceivable point—from not only finding who is good for us, but from making relationships work and/or last. The choice to personally mismanage our feelings as well as our mental well-beings has contributed mightily to our emotional laziness, which contributes to our high divorce rates and depression resulting from chronically-failed relationships.But our laziness does not stop here.


Given how close the country—indeed the world—came to the totalcollapse of the current economic regime, our sluggishness when it comes tomatters of finance mirrors that of other aspects of our society. For starters, Americans—despite high rates of unemployment, housing foreclosures, anddiscontent with the economy—are investing in personal savings at almost historicallylow rates; some 3.6% of disposable income (“Savings Rate Is Dropping, and Experts Are Puzzled”),which was a minor contributor to the financial crisis of recent times. A major aspect of our lazy attitudes is ourpropensity to avoid putting off gratification, preferring instead to indulgeourselves in terms of raw consumption. Granted, some of the spending is done “to cover necessities like medicalbills and gasoline,” Americans also tend to spend money on frivolity such ashigh-end designer clothing and shoes, gourmet coffees, cigarettes, lotterytickets, recreational drugs, and fancy automobile trappings—money which couldotherwise easily be saved in interest-bearing accounts. The live-for-todayspending we tend to indulge in is a modern-day variation of the Ant and the Grasshopper…with no thoughtsabout not only saving for rainy days and/or retirement, but basicinvestment. This is especially true forindividuals in the lower- and lower-middle classes.
Another consequence of our laziness and our lack ofmotivation to save is that many of those who simple were not “designed” to workfor others—that is, those who desire to work for themselves—are not willing toput forth the effort that it takes to establish our own businesses (and no, I’mnot talking about internet start-ups). While it is true that national chainstores have taken some of the sting out of purchasing high costs items such agroceries for the typical family, they have done little in the way of fosteringthe sense of economic independence for the individual who simply wants to be hisown boss and control his own time. As achild growing up in both Chicago, and later in Michigan, I can remember beingable to walk to numerous stores in my neighborhood(s) and buying whatever mylittle heart so desired—when I hadthe money. Whether it was to buy a soda,pick up a drug prescription, or a quick run to buy a can of tomato paste torush back for my anxiously waiting mother, it was a given that there was alwaysa neighborhood market, store, or small shop owned and operated by Mr. or Mr.So-and-So. In many cases, they werepeople I could identify with on many levels. In some cases, I went to school with the stores owners’ children. But now, and at the risk of soundingethnically-insensitive or intolerant, most neighborhood stores are owned byrecent immigrants to America…those who have aggressively filled the vacuum of entrepreneurialmotivation once held by those born here. Unwilling to work and maintain a semblance of economic independence, manynative-born Americans, especially in urban areas, have sold their livelihoodsfor a quick monetary offer, and in short order become employees (remember, manyof us do not invest or save…we simply buy things meant to impress) instead ofemployers . Now, instead of thousands ofproud Mom & Pop shops in every neighborhood, we have a landscape dotted withforeign-owned convenience stores operated and staffed by hard working familiescomprised of first-generation immigrants.
The same can be said of wage-labor positions, once proudlyheld by individuals such as my father and myself. Such physically-demanding and labor-intensivejobs, which were often on the lower-end of the pay scale, were once the onlymeans Americans could get by economically. I myself remember working on various farms in my youth…not to acquireextra spending money, but to contribute to the overall household income (alongwith my mother and siblings). Most of us who found ourselves doing this type ofwork were black, with a sprinkle of poor whites and Latino migrants. Today,most of those doing these types of jobs are immigrants—both documented and notso—from Latin America. Now this is notto say that I do not value these individuals as contributors to the melting potof America, or that I do not admire their economic tenacity and hard-work ethic.It’s just that their presence represents how quickly someone else will workwhen Americans become lazy.
In many ways, it was this same type of laziness which contributedto the financial crisis a couple of years ago. Buttressed by greed and our proclivity to want things now, many Americans failed to follow thetraditional route toward obtaining the part of the American dream that includeshome ownership. In droves, manyAmericans opted to bypass the more traditional and economically-sound practicesof working to strengthen their credit ratings and/or levels of savings, andrushed to purchase homes with a bare minimum of savings, and with credit scoreswhich shouldn’t have allowed in a banks front doors. Unwilling to put in the work to avoidqualifying for subprime mortgage loans, many were willing brave the risks of easy(but costly) credit, high (and in some cases, variable) interest, and long-termfinancial commitment (despite an unstable economy) to purchase homes theysimply could not afford. This phenomenonoccurred en masse, and the result wasa hair’s approach to a sequel to the Great Depression similar to that of the1930’s.


Despite the flack that President Obama caught late last yearfor his taken-out-of-context remark that “Americans are lazy,” he actually tolda bold truth that many refuse to accept or see. Yes, many Americans are lazy, whether it be personally, professionally, academically,or emotionally. In addition, I suppose itwould not be too late to add that many of us are lazy mentally and civically too;too many of us are too apathetic to being a part of the political process and torationally analyzing issues affecting their lives (most would rather leave evenhow their beliefs are shaped up to talking heads on pundit TV and radio). We simply cannot delay immediate gratificationfor long-term benefit. We are fat, fullof excuses, and in ill-health, ridden with preventable maladies such asdiabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease.
Many of us routinely show up late for work, do as little aspossible, and ask for too much (especially in the case of corporate officers, CEOs,and others whose “success” is built up the backs of those who do work hard).
A successful America requires the active participation of amotivated citizenry to ensure that socioeconomic equality is at the very least achievable. Any loss of freedoms, rights, or economic viability is due in partto the laziness on the part of American citizens.A successful America requires the active participation of a motivated citizenry to ensure that socioeconomic equality is at the very least achievable.


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