Helped by The Invisible Hand
DECEMBER 01, 1977 by DANIEL PATRICK DOYLE
Mr. Doyle, of Jennings, Missouri, finds the flaws in his liberal progressive education being corrected by the precious freedom that allows Adam Smith and John Dewey to compete for readers in the same library.
Are you one of those who lobbies for National Health Insurance and yet shudders at the thought of putting a bedpan under a sick person? Do you constantly squeak out noises about "the whole rotten system" and its Satanic conspiracy to never listen to your whining? Do you find your spiritual experience in some hell on earth? Do you eat too much with money given to you for dreaming up new ways to redistribute the wealth? Are you a middle class art major who lectures his father on the terminal inferiority of money and work while helping yourself to a dessert that he paid for by his working? Does a person who is too acute to grasp the obtuseness of Marcuse qualify for you as a fitting victim of a terrorist bombing?
Well, if you are, then please read the following because it just may save you from a horrible fate. Although initially I was highly skeptical, very shortly I personally verified the existence and superior economic (and personal) efficacy of The Invisible Hand of the free market. This natural mechanism is really present and operating with greater success than any other economic system, even in spite of wasteful Federal controls. The free market is benevolent in both the proximate and ultimate senses of the word. More than decisively demonstrating the necessity and merit of individual initiative, the private enterprise system also distinguishes between quality effort and mediocrity and rewards and penalizes them accordingly. Its very impersonality enables the free market to offer optimum opportunity for personal input into one’s work, leisure and relationships.
All of the above is true! I assert it without doubt or guile and with the confident pleasure of an Olympic sprinter enjoying his race too much to ponder the physiological processes involved in his performance. Like him, I know that a Gold Medal is more than just the sum of the chemical phenomena in his running body. No, an achievement, any achievement, is much, much more than that.
In my own case, a year of healing exposure to the natural tonics of hard work, competition, thrift and the pleasure of earning on the level of my ability was a real therapy. It gave me the self-confidence, improved lifestyle and happiness that pills, shock treatments and state-subsidized psychiatry had never given me.
I lost over 100 pounds of morbid fat. I quit drinking and smoking. That haunted look has left my eyes. I no longer weep wretchedly for a minimum of an hour a day. I now sleep soundly and manage well with five hours per night, less than half of the minimum twelve hours per day that I used to spend in frightened, protective slumber that was more anesthesia than rest. I now work full-time. I attend college two nights a week and karate lessons another two nights. On weekends, I have fun-good, clean, healthy fun-instead of my former neurotic pursuit of a religious experience in depravities and mutually lacerating personal relationships.
My family, friends and old acquaintances have all been dumbstruck by the sight of Dan Doyle out of his rut, out of bed before noon, off his back and on his feet all day, out of his ivory tower and doing something positive instead of bitterly cursing every passing atom so ill-mannered as to exist in the same universe with him. And just imagine! My body is now lean, hard and full of energy! My mind is on this side of the grave, for a welcome change! I have joined the living and I love it!
Before, a minor discourtesy from a grocery clerk would sink me into a week of depression and squirming, destructive fantasies. Now I smile and laugh at such things and I usually say a kind word that will have the person confiding in me the reason why he or she insulted an undeserving stranger in the first place.
How did it all happen? What was the stimulus? Who or what do I thank? Well, several people and many things, but mostly I credit the experience of competition and the opportunity to try and fail, and discover myself still alive, and then try again and again and finally succeed. I thank the exhilaration of exerting my muscle and mind against the real world and the rich, full, happy feeling that came from punching out at the end of my shift and leaving the baling room filled up with neatly packed, tightly wired, 500-pound bales of trash standing in symmetrical rows against the walls. To me, my daily transformation of loose, randomly dropped mountains of trash into disposable units was the embodiment of utilitarian beauty!
Yes, I was a trashman! For Sears, J. C. Penney and other companies. And doubt it if you will, but the trash challenged me! It motivated me! I unearthed a treasury of wisdom coming down the chute at Sears! The cardboard, the paper, the wood and glass and other waste did not quote to me from famous literary nihilisms. The trash did not argue or debate or score points or use wit, nor did it listen to me do those things.
No, the trash just resisted me. Its prolonged presence and magnification in the absence of my labor on it-well, those things contained personal implications that challenged me. Trash just lay there in a disorganized heap that would not bale itself and would inevitably get bigger and bigger until it accumulated to such an unwieldy magnitude that it would catch my boss’s corrective eye. My neglect of it would finally cause me more problems than had I steadily packed it in an ongoing manner as it came down the chute during the day. In other words, trash-baled and stacked-meant: a) keeping my job and income; b) continued opportunity to save money for the future, my future that I now chose to look forward to. Take away the trash and a dismal hole opened in which to throw myself and not even make a sound. Trash translated itself into a convincing argument.
So, on my very first day of my new job, I decided that: "Yes, I am frustrated and yes, I am getting even more aggravated by this job, but since I presently lack the skills and experience to secure something better, I will stay right here and grow up and right now! I will convert my tensions into a personal gain, and change anxiety and anger into a paycheck. I will transform this knotted-up Minus in my seething insides into a Plus! Instead of daydreaming about maximums, I will do something with minimums! Besides, it feels 100 per cent better to be awake with sweat and sore muscles than to be dead asleep because my idle melancholy and morbidity caused consciousness to lose its attraction!"
So, I stayed and I worked hard! I learned to listen and talk to people. I learned to accept authority without resentment, to not fear a co-worker with bigger muscles and not to bully one smaller than I am. I learned to smile and laugh naturally and spontaneously, to kid around without getting serious and to be serious without kidding around. And, in my free time, I worked out in a gym instead of overeating. And I drove out into the country and walked around among the lilies of the field and really considered them instead of reading the articulate illiteracy and adolescent pretensions in the self-improvement books. I enjoy the lilies, but I do not envy them. Comparisons between men and women and flowers are impossible. I live by my own thought and labor. I advance in direct relation to the quality of my judgment and work. And my happiness is powered primarily by my simple confession that only death does not require daily maintenance and growth. Since trash does require them, then trash is an integral positive of life to be valued in hierarchy, like all other things.
Deny the necessity of trash and you negate the dignity of the human beings who create it and other things. If you weep bitter metaphysical tears over soggy cardboard, then you cannot legitimately thrill to Cyrano de Bergerac, the Sistine Chapel or Bach! If you find misery in so living, it is because you have not yet discovered life-life from more than one isolated, negatively self-centered perspective.