By David Liapis, Board of Directors & Director of Communications, American Leadership & Policy Foundation
For thousands of years, victories of almost any kind have been hard-fought and often accompanied or brought about by great struggle and sacrifice, and often the loss of life. Yet, somehow over the course of 100 years, an expectation has been created that people can enjoy the fruits of victory without the labor required to produce it. This has led to a sense of entitlement and an aversion to anything that causes discomfort – even words and ideas.
It seems there are competing paradigms that influence the way someone views sacrifice and struggle as inherent to, and often requisite for, victory; and another that wants victory without the sacrifice and pain. One of these mindsets can inspire someone to jump out of a boat and storm a beachhead in spite of thick enemy fire and the near certainty of death or injury. The other mindset rejects the notion that effort, and especially pain – both physical and emotional – are needed to achieve anything of consequence.
During a recent conversation with my sister about her university experience she lamented that there were no “hard” teachers because they either get forced out for being too demanding of their students, or they softened their approach in order to preserve their jobs and get tenure. Apparently, students have complained to the university if a teacher required coursework to be quality and accomplished on time. Students have essentially taken over the system and found a way to get good grades without actually meeting course objectives that will stretch and challenge them. The next step, which has already been started, is the push for “free” education. Not only do Millennials not want to encounter anything difficult at places of higher education (think “safe spaces” and safety pins), they want the victory of a diploma to be handed to them free of charge.
It’s hard to say what the most tragic element is, but one of the most tragic things is the reality that many in this misguided generation will not know the satisfaction and joy of victory mingled with pain – to know what they have accomplished cost something, making it worth that much more.
There’s no incentive for young people to learn and do hard work and value a cause so much they would give of themselves for it. They are the highest calling. They are their own cause. They are all winners and inherently deserve the spoils of victory.
However, one fact of life is that not everyone is a winner. You cannot have winners without losers. But here’s the upshot: losing motivates us to work harder, reassess our strategies, put forth greater effort, or whatever it is we need to do to become victors … or at least it should.
The other significant tragedy is that the laws of reality require someone out there bear the burden of securing victory. There cannot be victory without struggle, and there cannot be a victor without the defeated. Millennials are so self-absorbed and concerned for their own safety of mind and body, they fail to see their idealized way of life comes at a cost to them, others and society as a whole.
“Nothing in life is free” so the old saying goes, and it remains as true today as it ever has. One cannot have “free” anything. Someone has to pay for thousands of students who want “free” college. It’s simple economics. Unless teachers and school staff are willing to become the largest group of volunteers in history and textbook printers are willing to give away volumes like Gideons gives away Bibles, there will never be such thing as a free education. Not only that, college has long separated those who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy finding ways to pay the bills and keep their grades up from those who don’t, and society has rewarded that effort with better paying jobs and opportunities. But If everyone has unhindered access to free – and easy – education, then a degree is meaningless and everyone loses.
Welfare and the redistribution of wealth is another area in which many Millennials fail to see the second and third-order effects of their desire for income and class equality and a higher minimum wage. Inequality is a motivator. Giving someone everything they need to survive (and then some) without requiring anything from them dis-incentives them and they are robbed of their drive to be a productive member of society. Both the individual and collective lose.
No, you cannot have true victory without sacrifice. Yes, life is challenging and we can be hurt physically and emotionally, but adversity makes us stronger … if we leverage it for our benefit and not our destruction. Anything worth having in life comes at a cost – relationships, freedom, love, education and even fitness – and that cost is what gives that thing value, and something of true value is worth sacrificing for. Don’t try to achieve victory without paying the price. It robs you, and everyone, of satisfaction that only comes through joy mingled with sorrow.