The older I get, the more I hear the same stuff over and over and over. I guess that’s true of everyone. What may not be true of everyone is that I don’t repeat this tripe, except to the extent that I make up my own stuff and spread it.
This is largely a phenomenon of the Internet meme. A meme is an idea or thought which spreads from person to person. It’s kind of like “word of mouth.” The Internet has taken this to new level by giving us each access to many more people than would otherwise be available to hear our raving. For example, this silly blog has been read by thousands of people in dozens of countries. Why? Because it’s on the Internet.
The Internet, via social media in particular, allows us to spread rumors and half-truths at the speed of light or at least very fast. There is so much of this that we have websites such as snopes.com devoted to debunking these myths. It’s only natural that Snopes must even debunk rumors about Snopes.
I’m now prepared to debunk a handful or particularly irksome thoughts, ideas, etc. Why? Because I’m on the Internet, by God.
As always, I offer my view only. It may be incorrect. You may disagree. If you do, I respect your right to disagree. You have the right to be wrong. I won’t infringe on that.
Below are a few things I’ve heard too much about which simply aren’t true. Believe them if you wish, but I don’t. For our purposes here, that’s all that matters.
Here are just five that I don’t buy into. Sorry, but that’s how it is. They were chosen at random for no particular reason.
1. PRISON IS GREAT
Ever heard something like this: Why don’t we treat the elderly like we do prisoners–free room and board; watch TV all day; exercise; and free medical/dental? This outrage is based upon the notion that prison is great. It’s great treatment and a wonderful life. Prison, the thought goes, is too soft.
If you believe this, it’s safe to assume that you’ve never been in prison or talked to anyone who has been. I’ve known a bunch of people who’ve been in prison. They are universal on one opinion: IT SUCKS! I know a guy who spent three years in a minimum security prison on an Air Force base, one of the so-called “country club” prisons. He said it was like “waking up in a nightmare every day.”
Here are few things that folks have told me about prison:
- It’s filthy. No matter what you do, that doesn’t change.
- You might be allowed to shower once or twice a week.
- You use the bathroom out in the open. That includes “major transactions,” too.
- You are surrounded by violent, dangerous and often mentally ill people. You live with them, eat with them and spend all the rest of your time with them.
- Prisoners aren’t known for their fabulous teeth. No citation of authority is necessary.
- The free health care consists of seeing a doctor if you are clearly deathly ill (or dead) or if you have been grievously injured by one of your fellow prisoners.
- The great exercise program consists of hanging out with the same dangerous people, except now they have access to a variety of implements which can be used to kill you.
- It smells. Bad. That’s a common theme from everyone I’ve heard. It just smells bad.
- The food is generally horrific. If you really step out of line, some prisons serve you something called Nutriloaf.
Here’s the bottom line: Prison is horrible. It’s a nightmare. I’ve never met any ex-con who speaks fondly of his days in stir nor I have met anyone who wanted to go back. If it’s such a great life, I suggest you go. The good thing about prison is that it’s really easy to join.
Maybe you know an old person in a nursing home worse than prison. If so, it’s hard to imagine, unless you put them there because you hate them (see my comments below about old people). In that case, it’s good enough for them.
By the way, you know what would really suck? Being old AND in prison.
2. POOR PEOPLE WANT TO BE POOR
Here’s one you’re bound to have heard: Don’t buy beer or cigarettes or get tattoos or cars or TVs if you’re on welfare. It’s similar to Michelle Bachmann’s suggestion that the best way to get health insurance is to get a job. Literally, these statements may be true. Literally, but not practically.
Perhaps it would be better for poor people not to drink beer or smoke. That’s probably true for the rich, too, Tattoos seem to be a generally bad idea to me. Why not take it a step further and just say that poor people shouldn’t buy magazines or soda or toys for their kids or clothes, for that matter?
I have never been poor. I wasn’t born poor. I wasn’t raised poor. I didn’t pull myself up by the bootstraps. I don’t even know what bootstraps are. I’m not a self-made man. Yes, I am successful, at least by most definitions. But, I had a lot of advantages–college-educated parents and a comfortable upbringing for two BIG examples. So, I don’t know what it’s like to be poor. Most of the people who bitch and moan about poor people also don’t know what it’s like to be poor.
I grew up with poor people. Some of my friends were poor. They had one thing in common–they didn’t like it, and were at least slightly embarrassed by it. In Eastern Kentucky, poverty wasn’t uncommon. We were in a melting pot. The rich, poor and middle class were all together. We went to school and church together. You could be like my family and live well but have neighbors who were poor by any definition. We got to see it up close, and it’s ugly.
Ever wonder why a lot of poor people turn to drug-dealing? Was it a life-long ambition? Is it because they want to accomplish something in life? Nope. It’s for the money. Being poor isn’t good, and most poor people agree. Yes, there are exceptions, just as there are to every rule. I’ve known people born into poverty who didn’t aspire to anything better. What I have NEVER known is someone who wasn’t poor but aspired to be poor, because it is such a great life.
3. PARENTS ARE GREAT
It seems that I’m always hearing about how great everyone’s parents are (were). Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day, etc. On Facebook, there are innumerable posts requesting you to “like” them if your parents were saints or your best friends or fabulous. Let’s be honest, some parents are awful.
Now, I had excellent parents. They worked hard, cared about their kids and sacrificed a great deal for us. I was LUCKY. That’s it. I didn’t choose them anymore than they chose me. Someone recently told me that I’m wrong about that–that I was blessed to have good parents. Perhaps. But that begs the question: If I did nothing to be so blessed, what did others do to be cursed with their parents? Nothing, you say? Then, that sounds like luck–good and bad–to me.
I’ve known people whose parents beat them, ignored them or were just generally crappy to them their whole lives. These are just horrible people who happened to achieve the none-too-impressive feat of procreation. You know what these folks deserve for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? NOTHING. As I’ve quoted before, my father once said: “When I was young, we had plenty of elder abuse, except we called it ‘revenge.'”
So, if you had good parents, good for you, just don’t blow too much about it. You didn’t have anything to do with it. If you had rotten parents, it’s okay, too. You didn’t make them that way.
4. RICH PEOPLE ARE BAD
I’ve written before about hating rich people, so I won’t belabor that. At the heart of that hate is the belief that the rich are bad. They aren’t, at least no more so than the rest of us.
Warren Buffett is rich. Super-rich. Billionaire-rich. He once said: “Of the billionaires I’ve known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.” That makes sense. Buffett doesn’t seem like to jerk to me. Maybe he is, but it probably doesn’t have anything to do with having a silo full of money.
Let’s all accept one irrefutable fact: We all want to be rich. All of us. If the rich are awful, then we all aspire to be awful.
5. OLD PEOPLE ARE WONDERFUL
It is a common refrain old people are a “treasure” or a “joy” or sources of “wisdom.” If you were a miserable ass when you were young, there’s a pretty good chance that’s what you’ll be when you’re old. Being a fool is likely to get worse with age, not better. In fact, the older you are, the more people probably realize your true colors. You just lived a long time. Big whoop. Charles Manson is 78. Mozart died at 35.
Think about this: Have you ever known an old person you couldn’t stand to be around? Of course, you have. He or she was probably a family member, too. Some old people become mean with age. Some were mean to start with and became old and mean. Not all old people are cute or charming or wise. Some are ugly, hateful and dumb asses. It’s hard to outgrow those things.
Well, that’s five things that I have now stripped of their veneer of credibility. Perhaps, you are an old, rich prisoner who aspires to a life of poverty. As such, you might disagree with me. Well, you’re wrong. So much for your “wisdom,” Pops.