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Archive for June, 2010


After my last post, I did a lot of thinking. I’ve learned some important lessons. This is what I came up with.

1. Never post an opinion piece in the wee hours of the morning.

2. If you’re putting your opinions out there, you’d better be ready for the fallout.

3. Read, revise, read, revise. One wrong word choice can completely alter the way your piece is perceived.

4. Timing is everything.

5. Realize that many will mistakenly think you’re writing about them, even though you’re not. One event might trigger you to reflect on a bigger picture, but they won’t know that. For example, you might see a mother reprimand her child in a store. Later, you think about similar situations taken to the extreme, and you write about the verbal abuse of children. You aren’t writing about the mother, but her actions caused an idea to snowball in your head.

6. Words are power. They can build up or break down. Exercise caution.

7. On the other hand, making people stop and think about something is worth the risk of making them a little uncomfortable.

8. If I worry all day because I suspect I’ve inadvertently hurt a friend, then perhaps it wasn’t worth writing.

9. Without passion, writing falls flat. Sometimes, we must draw on personal experiences for that passion, no matter how difficult that is.

10. Even the best journalists can recall times when something they’ve written got them in hot water. It might even be said that you can’t be good if you don’t occasionally take people out of their comfort zone. Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star immediately comes to mind. If I’ve crossed a line, then at least I’m in good company.

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How many times have you heard someone say they bought themselves a certain item because they “deserved it?” How often have you said it yourself?

It’s called “entitlement.” In its most innocent form, it’s the inspiration for occasional things we bestow upon ourselves to reward our accomplishments: the designer purse, the top-notch golf clubs, that rich dessert. At its worst, entitlement becomes demanding. You deserve something simply on the basis of being YOU, not because of anything you’ve earned.

Entitlement is a relatively new phenomena, a by-product of a capitalist society. Our parents never experienced it at all. To them, the only things one could “deserve” in life were punishments brought on by bad decisions; or high marks resulting from good study habits.

Books like “The Secret” promote the philosophy, but the simplicity of the thinking behind “entitlement” scares me. In some ways it infuriates me. It suggests that there is a magic formula to achieving whatever you want, to living the perfect life you want. Let me tell you that the formula is not foolproof, that you can only plan so much in your life; and no matter how deserving you feel, you may not get everything you want. Or, you may acquire them, and lose them in the blink of an eye. You may get knocked clear on your ass, with no hand reaching out to help you up. That, my dear readers, is the way life often plays out.

I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I guess I’m coming from a bitter place right now. I am disillusioned with those who think they’ve discovered the secret to getting all they deserve and look with scorn at those who haven’t managed the same lifestyle. They imply that others have only failed because they didn’t do enough to “deserve it.”

Once, feeling we “deserved it” was the rationale for a lot of the purchases we made. We deserved them because we worked hard. But financial experts warn that that kind of thinking can lead to problems, and it’s a big part of why we’re in the mess we’re in.

Seriously, should “deserving” even be part of the equation? Do the people born in third world countries deserve to live a life of starvation and sickness? Do children serving in armies deserve to have their innocence robbed from them? Does one person deserve a quick, painless death, while someone else deserves to be systematically tortured, dying piece by piece, hour by hour?

There are certain things everyone deserves. We deserve the love of a spouse and a few good friends. We deserve the right to work, to be paid fairly, and to be able to use those earnings to better our lives. But there are people in countries who work 80 hours a week, just to earn money for the bare necessities. Is that all they deserve?

Life is not simply input equals output. It’s also about luck. Sometimes, it’s about being positioned in the right place. You have to know that somewhere, there’s a big roulette wheel spinning, and wherever we land, that’s our fate. We can have a long run of good luck, and then a sudden drop of bad fortune that we can’t recover from. It’s undeniably there, waiting to knock the wind out of our sails whenever we dare to say “I DESERVE THIS.”

FOOTNOTE I woke up this morning to a comment from Bob Doe (see below), and I realized that the way this blog came across may have offended a lot of people. That wasn’t my intention, and I apologize. Please read my response to Bob for a further explanation.

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