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Robert Draper, a New York Times reporter who followed a few of the novice Republican Congressmen around Washington after their election in the 2010 landslide and then published his perceptions in "Do Not Ask What Good We Do," was likely struck by Blake Farenthold's resurrection of JFK's "do not ask what your country can do for you" and the further elaboration he quotes in his book:

"... this is the greatest country on earth! People are risking their lives every day to sneak into this country illegally, just for the chance to have an opportunity! And we are sitting here bickering! This is still the land of opportunity! We get there through had work, self-reliance, helping our family, and helping one another!"
...
"And again, I feel like that's what's wrong with America today.  We were built on rugged individualism and that's the American dream: going out and becoming a millionaire as a result of the fruits of your labors and the brilliance of your idea, not by sitting at home and watching Jerry Springer and getting your welfare check. If you talked to every successful person, they'll have failed at something."
No doubt, when we talk to people who consider themselves a success, they'll ascribe that success to themselves.  The American dream is really a myth cooked up by self-centered people who see no contradiction between praising the bravery of mirgrants and hunting them down as illegals in the desert. Farenthold, a Congressman from Texas, reveals his disconnect from reality in his diction. He feels, in the first person, singular and plural, but when it comes to "welfare," that's somebody else's concern.  Indeed, the Congressman rejects that he's got an obligation, as an agent of government, to provide for the general welfare. Where do they get the idea that they've been chosen as some sort of moral paragon?

Perhaps it's just a matter of not being able to comprehend the agency function.  Perhaps "agent" gets confused with "actor."  I'm indebted to Justice Kennedy for the distinction between those who govern and the agents of government.  But, I suspect he draws the distinction between those who are directly elected and the selected bureaucrats or semi-permanent staff of regulation writers and paper pushers. He probably thinks that the top dogs, of which he is surely one, are designated to rule. It's an understandable mistake.  After all, the people governing has yet to be realized.  Indeed, much effort is being expended to insure it never comes to pass.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's easy to be a "rugged individualist" (17+ / 0-)

    When you're living off of two family trust funds and getting paid to do nothing in Congress.

    Scroll down to #39, old Blakie himself:

    "His largest asset is listed as the ABMH Management Trust valued at $5 million to $25 million, which shows investments in a range of other family trusts. Farenthold’s grandmother is the late Annie Blake Morgan Head.

    Farenthold also reported another family trust, the Morgan Trust for the benefit of R. Blake Farenthold, valued at $1 million to $5 million."

    The guy's never seen failure in his life.

    "All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree" -- James Madison

    by paulitics on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 04:37:39 AM PDT

  •  rugged individualism. heh (11+ / 0-)

    What a pantload considering the source.  Someone who chose to be part of the body politic, a highly structured organization that represents society.

    Can never forget that we're dealing with petulant children.

    "Hey Joe Walsh, when did you stop deadbeating your wife?"

    by wretchedhive on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 04:44:01 AM PDT

  •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)
    The American dream is really a myth cooked up by self-centered people...
    •  Concise.... (7+ / 0-)

      ....but lacks a bit of exposition, don't you think?

      It might be better to say that the "American dream" requires America, which is a collective enterprise, as are all countries. And individualism requires a solid collective foundation or it's nothing more than a squalid struggle for survival. I like to think of myself as an individual, but if there wasn't someone down at the sewage plant taking care of things, I'd be up to my knees in my own sh*t, and so on. Even loners need a support team.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:32:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd go even further and suggest that (4+ / 0-)

      self-centered individuals are likely to lack sufficient self-awareness to even know that they dream.  So, from their perspective, the American dream is an aspiration, a vague hope for which there is no real predicate, an idea they cling to without knowing how it might be realized.
      It's what leads ideologues to tag George W. Bush as an idealist. He dreamed of bringing democracy to Iraq and as soon as he had that thought, the mission was accomplished, at least in his mind.

      People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

      by hannah on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:48:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It goes back to what you often (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hannah, isabelle hayes

        write about instinct driven people: they have a flawed concept of time. They can't conceive of any unit of time beyond "now."

        At work, I often proclaim something like, "We're only open eleven more hours." Some people will laugh, others will get genuinely pissed off. Not that I've caused them to work more or longer, mind you, I don't think they realistically conceive that they will be performing work for eleven more hours. I think they believe that they'll be finished working at any moment, now... now... now... and that belief is stronger than factual reality.

        "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

        by CFAmick on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:59:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  successful people have no clue why they succeed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hannah

        I have talked to a few of them and I can confirm that they don't have the slightest idea why they're successful, or at least they lack any ability to articulate it. They're probably the least introspective people I've ever seen.  They run on instinct and reflexes: no plan, no analysis, their brain is a silent servant of their desires.

        Ask them basic questions about business, and they either don't know ("I'm the leader!") or just parrot Business 101 stuff that is far too broad and simplistic to build a business plan around.  Ask them basic questions about inner resources like motivation and discipline, and it's the same way: they have no answers about where these things come from or how one acquires them.

        It works for them, but it's no help to anyone else.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:27:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Eggnog (0+ / 0-)

      Let me get you my recipe ...

  •  Once again, proving the opposite. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, hannah

    Before we get too into it, yes, there are clear examples of "Rugged Individualism:" people who succeeded despite no handouts, and even in the face of aggressive opposition. Unfortunately for right-wingers and libertarian types, the opposition  these successful people faced were on account of racism, sexism, classicism, and all other manner of -isms tolerated by our opposing political spectrum. These are also, for the most part, people who were incredibly lucky.

    The real lesson from these stories of success in the face of adversity is imagine what could be achieved if we gave everyone the opportunity and support to succeed.

    All that being said, the actual narrative of "Rugged Individualism" is complete hogwash. At every point in American history has one group been favored through various forms of government intervention at the expense of other people. It was not until after Roosevelt, that the group being benefited was the middle class at the expense of the 1%, that it became necessary to promote the mythology of "Rugged Individualism" in order to discredit the government having favored the middle class.

  •  One man's "American" dream (0+ / 0-)

    is another man's American Nightmare.

  •  What really gets me about this myth (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann, hannah, isabelle hayes

    is that our archetypal 'rugged individualist' is the cowboy. How people can call cowboys individualists is beyond me. They work on driving herds of cattle from grazing land to a rail head. There is no way an individual could do that. There must be a team of men, a chuck wagon to feed them, and someone to provide cattle to herd. An 'individualist' cowboy, with no cattle to herd, no team to work with, no boss to give directions, no bunk house to sleep in, no cook to make his meals, would soon have to either steal or starve. Even criminals in the Wild West formed gangs for mutual support and protection.

    Rugged, sure. Individualist? Pah!

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:15:22 AM PDT

  •  Rugged individualism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry marmot

    Isn't a myth per se. There are legitimate examples of this, but it's usually the case that those claiming it today aren't an individualistic and rugged as they claim to be.

    •  libertarians trapped in colonial/pioneer era (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native, hannah

      Their utopia is only possible if two conditions are satisfied.  First, there needs to be an effectively unlimited amount of land available for the taking: always someplace to go beyond the reach of a government or society in general.  They take for granted that this land will have plenty of resources that can be easily exploited using only one man's labor: trees to cut for a cabin and firewood, rainfall for your crops, a river or lake for drinking water and fish, animals to hunt, etc. - the desert won't cut it.

      Second, you need to have a population with the skills necessary to survive entirely on their own individual labor: they need to know how to grow crops, howo to raise cows and chickens, how to hunt and fish, how to build houses and barns, how to weave fabric and make clothes, how to make the implements necessary to do these things, etc.

      Only this way is it possible to live completely independently, without owing anything to anyone, and that's the essence of libertarian ideals and paranoia. Association promotes dependency which is slavery in all but name.

      Neither of those conditions are present today, and it's debatable to what extent they were fulfilled way back when.  The Pilgrims didn't build the Mayflower; they paid someone else to do it.  Hell, the colonies were planned from the beginning as a captive market for British-made goods.  The pioneers were dependent on the fruits of eastern industry that had to be shipped out by rail.  Even the Native Americans lived in sophisticated societies with divisions of labor and continent-wide trade networks.

      To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

      by Visceral on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:42:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Their version is myth or at least in the past (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hannah

        But  there are examples even today which qualify. There are immigrants who come here with very little in the way of money, English skills, connections and often without even legal permission to work who go on to be quite successful. There are US born people who grow up with no  parental support and face extreme adversity to make something of themselves, too. I don't take "rugged individualism" in this day and age to mean that you literally live alone in the woods, make your own clothing from pine needles and catch fish with your bare hands. Again, I think that most of the people who claim "rugged individualism" means doing ok after graduation from expensive schools that their parents paid for, which is a crock.

    •  Foolish quibble. It is a myth per se. (0+ / 0-)

      "rugged individualism" is not merely the assertion that rugged individuals exist.

  •  If you put three rugged individualists (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hannah

    on a desert island, they'd probably kill each other in a matter of weeks.

    People who glorify an alpha-dog mentality at the expense of community are often weak-willed individuals, who lack the ability to interact with others effectively. They need an authority figure to emulate, to identify with, and give them a sense of self-worth.

    Every (successful) rugged individualist is surrounded by an army of these sycophants and hangers-on. They worship power because they themselves are weak and fearful. Their desire is to obey, and to force everyone else to obey as well, so to acquire a status they would otherwise be without.

    "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

    by native on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:31:54 AM PDT

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