Monday, April 2, 2007

It's Just Another Day In Paradise

Yep, you have probably either heard me say, or seen me write it, when someone asked me how things are going. My reply of: "It's just another day in Paradise" has sort of become my standard reply. I started using it more and more frequently on October 5, 2005, the day I became eligible to retire from the federal service; and I say it around my office an awful lot. Folks at work just think I am being mildly and amusingly sarcastic. While that maybe it to a small degree, that is not it for the most part - not really.

You see I first started using that saying right after the big tsunami on December 26, 2004. After watching the news about all those people, the resorts, the villages, the roads, the railways, and the like being washed away I had a disturbing thought of a beer (I think Heineken) advertisement pop up in my head. It was the one with the beach scene, someone grabbing a cold beer, and throwing away their cell phone or beeper into the surf; and all I could think was that some guy like that had just thought - "Its just another day in paradise" and the next thing he knew, he found himself 20 miles out to sea hanging onto the trunk of a coconut tree. Yes, it made me sure that whatever life I was living, it's just another day in Paradise compared to that, and to other things that people suffer through.

So yes I have said it, and written it an awful lot over the past few years - and yes I mean it. I have realized, more and more, over the past few years that my life is akin to living in Paradise. I have a good family (despite family hardships, disagreements, arguments, grudges, marital stress which all are pretty bad at times, bad enough for counseling at times). I have a great life despite having a job that I have come to hate. The job sucks eggs or worse, but it is still a good thing if only because I have a job and it pays the bills and helps provide Paradise to me and the family. I have a house that is not a mansion, and is on the small side. Yet, it is one that is fairly solid despite needing a new main stairway, work on the roof, new gutters, landscaping or at least a decent lawn, painting, and is infested yearly by carpenter ants (I just bought this year's supply of ant poisons). I pay taxes out of my ears for my too small old house, and on my income, and on things I buy in the form of sales tax; but I guess those taxes give me something back that folks in other countries don't have. Living in the United States of America is worth most of dollars I pay to the tax man. I have my health to a fairly decent degree regardless of all my chronic aches and pains, my ailments, high blood pressure, numerous and fairly traumatic injuries, and too many operations over the years; and I am able to work even if the job stinks. My family has their health to a better degree than me and that is a very good thing. We have our hobbies and interests, we watch TV, we read, we have our pets, and we have other hobbies an interests. My daughter is a college graduate. My son, who is 17 still spends a lot of his time with me enjoying some hobbies and interests, and both of my children spend a good amount of time with my wife too. All in all, it's just another day in Paradise - really it is, I kid you not.

I think though that an awful lot of people in this country actually seem to forget how great we on the whole as Americans have it. Sure some do not have it as good as me and my family, and some have it much better; but all in all people in this country, even our poorest people have a life that is much better than many around the world. Still as I said, people seem to forget this. I do not know why or how they forget it, but they often do. I guess in a way it is understandable, you get used to your own levels, and want to improve. You wind up not seeing what you have already as being all that great since you sought of take it for granted having had it for so long. When others around you have it better, you want yours to be better too. So you are left wanting, and you wind up trying to figure out how to improve your lot.

Some people improve their lots through hard work. They work harder, give better performance, and get promoted. Or they go to school, learn something new, or improve old skills, and get a raise or a better paying job. Others will not improve themselves so much, but may work harder and do overtime, or get a second job; but they still work hard to improve their lot. Yet others will try to take the easy street, and will try underhanded or illegal means to reach an end of a better lot in life. Still others will just moan and groan and complain and put their hands out as if we who are doing better than they owe them something, when in fact they could do it themselves if they were just not out and out lazy scalliwags. Of course some are fairly satisfied with what they have, or with their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Improvement is not a bad thing, nor is satisfaction. Take either one, but if you want to improve, please do not do it at my expense - don't be the type of person who has enough already, does not realize it, wants more, and wants it from me for free.

This last type of person, the one who thinks that others owe them a freebie, a handout, charity, or compassion get to me - especially those of them who already have fairly it good and who want more on the dole without working for it. I can not stand people like that, not one bit. I do not owe anyone anything because they have decided not to work as hard as I have, or as you have, or even harder, to achieve a better standing in life. I especially can not stomach those who ask for handouts from regular guys and gals like me when they already have more than regular Joes and Janes like me and you. These folks get to me even more than those who have a little and who want handouts. The audacity exhibited by someone who is fairly well to do, yet who asks for handouts for free, is beyond my tolerance.

Yes I own a house, and I actually almost really own it outright, give me another year or two of payments and it will be mine. Yes I have two cars (one is over ten years old, close to 12 I think), the other is 2 years old and was the low end model with hand crank windows, no electronic locks or any other luxuries like that. Having a car is a luxury, but we do not own luxury cars for sure. Yes we have pets. Yes we have some other nice possessions, for instance I have a fair number of firearms, my wife has a Hummel collection and so on. Yet, we do not own a boat, we do not have a swimming pool, we do not own a large house, we do not have a large piece of property, we do not own a second residence, we do not own a country place, we do not own any recreational vehicles, we do not own even a fair amount of jewelry (yes we have some but that is minimal), we do not have health club memberships, we do not - oh you get the picture.

Now let me paint a little more onto that picture, let me paint another guy and his family into it. There are some folks out there who own: a bigger house than we do, have the house sitting on a bigger lot, have a swimming pool in the backyard, have central air-conditioning, have multiple luxury vehicles (certainly more luxurious than either the Ford Taurus or the Toyota Corolla that we own), have wonderful collections of personal effects, travel frequently, have digital this and digital that, have numerous computers at home, have big screen televisions, and on and on. These same folks are quite fit, fit enough to work at least one job, maybe even two. Yet they choose not to work, or choose to work at a job that pays a low end salary, and rather who are out there asking for guys like you and me to give them money whenever they need or want something better in their lives. I have seen people, who owned brand new Cadillacs, shopping at the grocery store while using food stamps, and complaining to the checkout clerk when the clerk told them they could not buy that necessity of life called beer with the food stamps. I know of others who frequently travel around the world both on pleasure and work related trips, who own pleasure watercraft, who have two houses, yet who incessantly ask others for handouts. What kind of a society is it in which we find ourselves when regular Janes and Joes actually give these people our hard earned money, at the expense of our own well being, free for the asking? This is not charity, charity is something you give to someone who has a need. This is insanity. I just don' t understand how it is that able bodied Americans get away with asking for, begging for, or demanding more and more in the way of financial aid or handouts of any sort. No, let me correct that, what I do not understand is that hard working Joes and Janes in the USA keep giving into to those demands, and keep giving away their own hard earned wealth, to foster a welfare mentality even among those who already have it made so well as to drive around in luxury cars, have pools in the backyard, and in general have a life of comparative luxury.

Please don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with providing charity, handouts, assistance or welfare to those who really need it such as the elderly, the physically and mentally handicapped, people who have lost work temporarily due to illness or other reasons. There is something wrong though with giving it to those who do not need or deserve it, and who continuously mooch from the rest of us without giving back their fair share to society. There is no reason to give assistance to someone who is able to work, and who can get a job (even if not one to their liking so long as it pays the rent and for the bacon) that is unless you give them a job as a form of welfare. Working for what you have, and for what you want to have, has the uncanny ability to make people respect themselves. It also has the amazing effect that it improves society as a whole, and makes us all the richer for it. It is not easy to have to work for what we want, and we may never achieve all of our goals by working toward them, yet that is no excuse for sloth. Even if we fail to achieve a certain goal, if we are not able for example to buy a Mercedes Benz, or to live in a bigger or better house, we have achieved something else that maybe worth all the more. We have achieved self respect, and the respect of our families, friends, and coworkers, and the effect that our children will most likely follow in our footsteps. If you have a good work ethic, and instill it into your children, they will probably become contributing members of society, just as were you; and maybe someday they will buy you that nicer car or bigger house (or at least invite you to live with them when you can no longer make it on your own). What a better thing than that could happen in your old age is beyond me; and if it ever happens to me, I will know without a doubt: "It's just another day in Paradise" - and I worked damned hard to earn it.

All the best,
Glenn B