One trait that fascinates me most about people is — for immediate lack of a better term — the need to be slapped.
Welcoming motivation and/or constructive criticism is one thing, but that's not enough for some people. They enroll in various boot camp-style programs and tough-love seminars and earnestly read articles by the likes of Matt Walsh. All so they can chase that rush of, "Thanks! I needed that slap to the face!"
I suspect this is a privileged, upper-middle-class phenomenon, where the well-off have to fabricate challenges for themselves. The rest of us don't have to bother with searching, because the challenges slap us every day. And because we've had to struggle with life's obstacles rather than have the luxury of inviting them in if we please, we have a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of the circumstances.
That's why people like Walsh make my blood boil. If you're looking for a slap in the face, he's got one of the best hands in the business. But why would you want that? Dear God, why? (Granted, I can see why someone would read him to validate their own lack of compassion toward others, or as a way to feel their own success had no roots in the social contract or dumb luck. Just like with Ayn Rand.)
But even if Walsh is 100 percent correct, what does that say about his ideal world? "Start your engines. The race to the bottom is about to begin."
In The Four Harsh Truths That Everyone In My Generation Needs To Accept, Walsh offers somewhat contradictory advice: The world owes you nothing, so take literally anything you can get, even it's the lowliest fast-food gig, and like it — oh, and don't be afraid to take entrepreneurial risks! Because you have inherent value. Also, you are worthless. And all struggling people are lazy video-game players who hate to work and want to undermine America.
Look, I get that people aren't always going to land their dream jobs, especially at a young age. And that oftentimes people have to swallow their pride and take a stopgap job to pay their bills (I've done it multiple times). But Walsh, in the fine tradition of Ronald Reagan and numerous other right-wing "motivators" before him, fetishize this stopgap as inevitable and character-building. (Funny how these people are always in positions of power, not working fast food, and some of them never even came close to having to.)
There's a saying of which I'm particularly fond: "If you shoot for the farthest star out there, the worst that will happen is you miss and reach the moon. If you reach for the moon and miss, you'll land right back where you started." These guys wouldn't even have you reach for the moon — they want you to aim your rocket at Mount Everest and crash in the Middle East somewhere. And you weren't smart enough to build a better rocket, then tough luck, buddy. Man, that's a world I want to live in!
But I guess I'll settle for an imperfect world where hard work is no guarantor of success, but it — and dreams — are encouraged. And even more importantly, where it's acknowledged that an entire generation of Americans cannot find jobs suited to their talents, education and work ethic through no fault of their own, and are making sensible economic decisions (such as living with their parents) that will guide them long after they've overcome this hump, all of this in the face of a hostile crowd that hypocritically accuses them of being lazy and entitled.
We're tough. We can handle it.