You’ll Get Everything and Not Like It

Being one of three brothers who came of age in the 1990s—the golden age of watching ribald, edited-for-television comedies on basic cable—I was constantly exposed to humorous quips and one-liners from hilarious movies.  One perennial favorite was the raunchy (again, edited for television) comedy classic Caddyshack (1980), about a bunch of blue-collar kids working at a tony country club’s golf course (and Bill Murray trying to blow up a gopher).

My brothers and I still reference one brief but oft-quoted scene:

Judge Smails irate handling of his ingrate nephew is a classic, and something I have probably said to a student.  My older brother loves saying it to my younger brother’s kids, who, while not rotten, and definitely spoiled (a good bit by their Uncle Portly).

My older nephew, is nearly six, likes to invert the phrase, shouting at his other uncle, “You’ll get everything and not like it.”  It’s one of his many (unintentionally?) Zen utterances.

I was contemplating this amusing bit of familial banter on the way to work yesterday.  My sweet little nephew is right—we Westerners do have everything—and we’re miserable!

The great promise of the Enlightenment and modernity was simple:  through scientific materialism and hyper rationalism, we can conquer and control Creation and extract maximum prosperity from it.  All we had to do was give up our traditional ways of living, move to the cities, and punch a clock for fourteen hours a day.

We realized that was a pretty bum deal after awhile, but were assured that if we just kept working with our shorter, easier workdays, we’d achieve unlimited prosperity in no time.

I’m not opposed to hard work—I love it, especially when it’s my own enterprises—and premodern people worked exceptionally hard.  But there was a sense of purpose to their work, a sense that working hard and living righteously were pleasing to God, and ensured the security of future generations.  People wanted to propagate future generations.

Now, that sense of purpose seems to be missing for many Americans.  Ironically, we’ve achieved the prosperity that the earliest civilizations literally killed merely to attempt to achieve.  It turns out, however, that pizza at 2 AM and nonstop streaming services aren’t the key to greater happiness.

To clarify again:  I’m thankful—incredibly so—for the ability to get pizza at 2 AM; for an abundance of food and energy (despite the best efforts of the Biden administration); for easy access to medicine; for hot water piped directly into my home.  These have vastly improved the quality of life, but they’ve also preserved life (well, maybe not the 2 AM pizza, but the fact that it’s available suggests a society with plenty of material wealth).  I don’t want to see these disappear.

But these things don’t provide meaning or purpose.  Their ready availability should encourage us to both preserve our material wealth and to pursue our purpose(s).

That was essentially the premise of Star Trek (and Marxism—gulp!):  in a world in which all needs are provided, we’d be free to pursue our strengths, to grow and expand as a civilization.  We’d explore the stars and write poetry and sculpt statues.

Instead, the lack of struggle has made us soft and indolent.  We watch too much television (myself and included) and eat too much food (also guilty).  Loads of young men go to work, do the bare minimum, then persist on pot and pornography until their next soul-deadening shift.

Struggle is good.  Getting nothing and liking it is good for us, personally and civilizationally.

Getting everything sounds pleasant, but it costs more than we realize.


9 thoughts on “You’ll Get Everything and Not Like It

  1. This is an excellent post, Port. As we continue to hear horror stories from the Border and learn about fentanyl addiction and the number of deaths from it of those 18-45 years old, I have often (before and a whole lot more now) wondered what drives people to drugs? I know drugs have been around forever – ‘China towns’ in the ‘wild west’ had opium dens (this from the movie Tombstone: Curly Bill comes out of an opium den … But what is it? No one can tell me that all 175 people that die EACH DAY from fentanyl all came from broken homes or were abused as children. Look at the streets in Los Angeles, for example – the drug use is almost beyond one’s imagination!

    So maybe the answer is what you posit in your article – a lack of purpose in life? Is that what drives drug addiction – or alcohol addiction for that matter. How can it be better being high as a kite or drunk as a skunk be better than living a ‘clean’ life? If I knew Jordan Peterson, I’d love to ask him that question.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think boredom and desperation are a factor. If you’re living a life of poverty, drugs provide some form of escapism from it. If you’re a celebrity living the high life, drugs will provide escapism from the boredom. I don’t imagine there’s much difference between class A drug addiction and your lighter stuff, like drinking and smoking. Drinking provides a short term release from the stresses of everyday life, just as smoking provides a shorter release of stress.

      For those who’ve never had an addiction, they’ll never understand it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great piece, Port. 🙂

    Living in a world of convenience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one, with the constant and many distractions, it can be easy for us to fall away from our real purpose, whatever that may be to each of us. If it wasn’t for those distractions, I, for instance, might have written one, two, maybe 3 books by now but I’m as absent minded as the next guy.

    And it’s not just a preoccupation that dulls us. How many non jobs exist nowadays? I’m not only talking about climate or diversity officers, I’m talking about dull and pointless jobs that are completely unnecessary. When I was working in the admin department at our local college, I used to wonder whether not only the job I was doing (booking rooms and arranging spaces for visiting organisations or existing groups) but the jobs other people were doing were entirely necessary. I mean, once you sort out the majority of stuff at the start of the year, is there a real need to continue doing it for the rest of the year? When you start thinking like that, it makes you wonder about everything else. It also makes you wonder how many years of your life are ticking away, when you could be doing something with more meaning.

    Teaching has meaning to it. Building or working as a nurse/doctor/carer has meaning. Street cleaning, dealing with sewage and water has meaning. Manual trades have meaning. What is the rest of it and how much do we need? How many people arrive home after a shift and feel satisfied, that they have done something worthwhile? Maybe this futility is dulling our senses and making us softer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve just remembered a conversation Tina and I had some time ago, when musing over the apathy and laziness of the modern man. It surrounded the electric garage door.

    Why would anyone need or require a remote control to open a garage door? What, they can’t afford the time to clamber out of their cars, open a door, drive in, and close it again? Same with TV remote controls and escalators, the latter which I find really daft. Useful, I suppose for your elderly but why would any able bodied person use them?

    One of the worst examples, in my opinion, is the abbreviation of words in a comment, book or article. Back in the days when you’d text, I understood shortening words for the purpose of cost but people do it everywhere now. I’ve seen posts and articles with abbreviations. Someone on TCW the other day put ‘btl’ on a comment and I had to find out the meaning on the search engine. Below the line, it transpired. There’s no cost involved so why not write ‘below the line?’ It just infuriates me, especially when I see supposed journalists and advertisers doing it. I can accept ‘lol’ from Audre, because she’s quirky and I like her, but I’m not a fan in general.

    When you come to rely on the easy conveniences in life, even when they’re less convenient than one might suppose, it makes you lazy – physically and mentally. No wonder standards have dropped everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I first started posting on TCW, I would write it out – laughing out loud. I had so many good comments on that I only use lol with friends and on our mutual blogs.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Like I said, I can cope when it’s you. It doesn’t send me into paroxysms but I do wonder why. In the time it would take me to write, for example, BTL, I could have already written below the line. It’s as if some people feel like half a millisecond is too long.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know, Port, seems to me that too many don’t think through what they do. Until I was about 40, I spent my adult years building and maintaining power lines to America’s farms (as had Dad, who was project superintendent on REA Indiana 1, the first REA loan back in 1935). It paid pretty well, but had its hazards, when dad started 50% of linemen would die at work and one of my uncles got burned, but survived (and was promoted because of it eventually became a division superintendent for Northern States Power). Now, because of men who thought through the jobs, and dad was one of them, it’s not even rated as a hazardous job. It’s also incredibly more productive, and a good bit of that improvement has found its way into our pockets, as well as the consumers’.

    But all of us understood why we did it, not hard to understand when you’re out there in -80F windchill in a blizzard getting people electricity on so they and their animals might survive. Or like a couple of my local friends were, down in Florida to fic the lines after the hurricane. When my knees went, I switched to working on center pivots, which are a major part of the (real) green revolution, that increased corn (and other crops) production from 60 bu/A when I was a kid to 240+ now. How many people in the world didn’t stave because of the work I’ve done? I don’t know but it’s a lot.

    To paraphrase Adam Smith, if someone is willing to voluntarily give you money to do something, by definition your work is worth (at least) that much or they wouldn’t. The workman (or woman) is worthy of their hire. If you only work for the paycheck you simply miss the point of working, you might as well be on welfare cause you’re not a contributor to society, you’re a detriment to it. Because it ain’t all about us, Sure it’s nice to get paid, but I’ve done a lot of work over the years for chicken and beer and those were some of the most rewarding jobs of all.

    After all, as Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

    I always remember that our soldiers in France in 1944 had a saying, “The road home goes through Berlin”. Berlin is on all of our ways home.

    Liked by 3 people

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