“Misfortune in itself is a poor teacher. Its pupils learn hunger and thirst, but seldom hunger for truth or thirst for knowledge. Suffering does not transform a sick man into a physician. Neither what he sees from a distance or what he sees face to face is enough to turn an eyewitness into an expert.” — Bertolt Brecht
“I’m his mother. I know what’s best for him,” the young woman who has decided that vaccinating her child against a host of curable diseases is the wrong way to go.
“I’m black. My black experience makes me an expert on all things black,” says the 20-year old activist.
“I’m a woman and I am automatically expert on being a woman,” says someone with a biological vagina.
“I’m a man and know all the things about manstuff and things men do and feel,” says a fucking dude with a loin cloth and a drum.
Mistakes and failure are the ultimate teachers but the School of Hard Knocks degree is a truckload of self-delusion, friends. Your ability to eat a shit sandwich and not vomit makes you an expert in exactly jackshit except for being expert in being you and your poor taste in sandwiches. And, I hate to break it to you but you are not representative of any group larger than that mirror self you notice getting older and saggier every day.
I understand the desire to elevate one’s experience to a more reliable authority. It’s human nature to want to pass off your bullshit to encompass a larger subset of the tribe. I’d love to be able to speak for, say,
all white people,
all white males,
all white males who happen to be straight,
all straight, white males who happen to be in the back end of middle age, etc. ad nauseum.
I am, however, not a spokesman for any experience than my own. Neither are you.
Life is a crap teacher if nurture and compassion is what you’re looking for. What does life teach us?
It’s all a competition
Start with the basics: food, shelter, clothing and we’re all scrambling to get them. Anyone gets in the way of us having those three things and we go into strict competitive mode to acquire them. Jobs? Competition. Sex? Competition. There is no nurture in the fight to live among the hairless, talking apes on Planet Survival. Those of us who live in the United Skeets of ’Merika—even our poorest members—have it better in this regard than 90 percent of the rest of the Happy Dancing Dipshits globally and even we pit ourselves against each other in the melee for Stuff We Need/Stuff We Want.
We steal office supplies from work. We elevate our own victim status to compete with other people who feel victimized. When we experience a real winter, we shovel out spots and leave lawn chairs out to claim dibs.
All the School of Hard Knocks teaches us in this area is to be the biggest, most manipulative, strategic fuckhole imaginable. That wealthy 0.0001 percent we all despise for owning everything? They’re winning.
You are judged by how you look rather than what you do or what you think
No one cares what you think. Not really. Unless it basically supports their already strictly defined perspective, no one wants to hear it or read it. Certainly, you are judged in part by your political status but if you are a physically attractive zealot? You get a pass.
When I was sporting an additional 80 pounds, I didn’t think anything of how I was regarded when interviewing for a job or dealing with the customer service lady at the AT&T counter. When I dropped that weight, it was almost comical how much better people treated me—think of it as an extension of the cute soccer mom talking her way out of a ticket versus the woman who looks like Ernest Borgnine in drag trying the same.
You wanna know why so many black men are incarcerated in disproportionate rates than white men, and more black men are shot by police? Because they are black. Not because they are part of the criminal class, not because they are poor, not because they might have a gun. BECAUSE THEIR SKIN IS BLACK. Police judge people by the color of their skin because everybody judges people by their appearance, first and foremost. It is part of the core requirements for a degree in Humanity at the School of Hard Knocks. Why do think so many people bitch about kids wearing their pants down low? I mean, whose business is it but your own how you wear your pants?
Fairness is a concept you create in self interest
It has been said that life is not fair. The School of Hard Knocks hammers this truth like no other lesson. Fairness is a concept in self-interest rather than some sort of moral absolute. Is it fair that unarmed protesters of government corruption who happen to be mostly black or brown get tased and tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets but the self-proclaimed Oregon militia who are both heavily armed and ridiculously white are merely observed? You bet your sweet ass those fucktards in Oregon think it’s fair as it can be. People uncomfortable with the overt dialogue about race in this country likely think it’s fair, too.
Fairness is a concept borne from the obvious favoritism that Mother Nature bestows upon the strongest and the most cut throat. Nature is dispassionate and those with the most resolve to dominate and the ethical values of natural predators almost always win. In the Zombie Apocalypse, those with glasses, asthma, in wheelchairs, old or completely out of shape are simply chum. The sad fact is that if the world came to a screeching halt and we all had to fight for survival without modern electricity of gasoline powered engines, that frat boy asshole who works out seven times a day and can bench press your sister and her friends is gonna last longer than the spectacled computer nerd. The fact is, it will be the Cubs fans who survive rather than the poets (except for Tim Stafford because he’s a poet who is also buff).
Is that fair? The School of Hard Knocks says “Who gives a shit if it’s fair. It’s reality.”
Back to Brecht. “Suffering does not transform a sick man into a physician.”
It is arguable that the School of Hard Knocks mostly teaches us how not to behave. It teaches us to make better choices when navigating the brutal existence of Unforgiving Nature and Uncaring Humanity. To learn kindness, one needs to experience kindness from another. To learn cooperation, one must relinquish to the ideas of compromise and patience. To learn to show love, one must experience love personally and authentically.
The School of Hard Knocks creates psychopaths and Machiavellian creatures hellbent on clawing their way to the top of the heap. If that’s the best we have, what a sad, sorry bunch of apes we will become.