Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Fallacy of "Deserving"

I've strained for years to articulate what offends me about Hillary Clinton, as have many others. Amid Maureen Dowd's frequent attacks, there's an occasional bit of insight, but she mostly just seems strident (justifying Clinton's Nixonian friends/foes outlook). My friend Dave once asked me an interesting question: what is it about Hillary you dislike that isn't true of other politicians? Aren't they all creepily inauthentic egotists? Aren't those the very qualities which drive people to assume they ought to lead human beings in the first place?

Well, not all politicians are that way; exceptions easily spring to mind, e.g. Obama, Bloomberg, Warren, Kasich, Huntsman, and even Sanders. But the question is still valid: what is wrong with Hillary that's not wrong with most other politicians?

I've finally got it. There's a word I strongly dislike and view with great suspicion. It's a word people once used frequently despite all evidence and logic, and which has fallen, thankfully, out of favor. That word is "deserve", and it's Clinton's favorite word.

I'm lucky enough to have extraordinary people in my life. My friend Pierre knows the answer to everything. My massage therapist friend Dom can instantly find and fix many physical maladies. My plumber friend John may be the best brewer on earth. My mechanic Tony can bring people back from comas, my super honest and effective tire repairman turned out to be a real estate mogul, and my yoga teacher has some insights her teacher - and her teacher's illustrious teacher - can't match.

You'd think Pierre would be celebrated and sought out for his knowledge, and Dom and Tony would be internationally-known healers. You'd think the whole world would be drinking John's beer, and driving for miles to the mogul's tire repair shack. You'd think my yoga teacher would have long waiting lists of eager students.

But none of them are recognized, let alone celebrated, beyond a handful of admirers, for their extraordinary talents. Cream doesn't rise. What rises is relentless self-promotion and predatory competitive drive. Extraordinariness counts for very little in this world. It was my frustration with this that spurred me to open Chowhound, offering a spotlight for the few who care to shine upon the few worth caring about (I assumed my purpose would be obvious, but people concluded it was a place for gluttons to obsess over yumyums).

None of these friends thinks much about what they "deserve", or speaks about it being "my time". Such sentiments are nonsense; they're snippets of empty drama. The world simply doesn't work that way. We hardly "deserve" our swift few decades of life, let alone any particular outcome. The rewards of living life with commitment - pushing oneself to do cool things that help and/or delight people - are entirely intangible...and entirely sufficient.

Clinton hasn't brought anyone back from a coma, she certainly doesn't have the earnest humility to spend her afternoons fixing tires, and she's not the best in the world at anything, but, yes, she's contributed (with a mixed record of success), and taken more than her share of lumps. And she is undeniably very bright and competent.

But she seems entirely consumed by the conviction that she deserves. It's "her time". Hillary Clinton believes that she has, in some cosmic ledger, earned elevation simply by virtue of being her.

Let's forget the particulars for a moment. The very concept of deserving is embarrassingly outmoded. Look around; people just don't do that anymore! I never hear people using that word. We live in a post-dessert world, and that explains, among other things, why Clinton is repelling young people in droves. They don't trade in this obsolete, delusional currency. They can smell it, and they find it gross.

And, anyway, here's the thing: if I'm wrong and the notion of deserving a certain outcome has genuine substance, then Clinton would need to get on a very long line, along with hordes of pure-hearted starving kids, mega-talented never-beens, persecuted reformers, and unwitting outcasts of every stripe. People whose hard knocks haven't been eased by hundred million dollar bank accounts nor legions of fawning supporters. People who merely trudge along despite great accomplishment, contribution, and sacrifice.

....and who have the good sense not to gnash their teeth about it.

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