#3. "You're Just Jealous Because I Made It and You Didn't!"
"I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus one percent -- and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent -- [it] is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God."
-- Mitt Romney
Cracked Exclusive: Mitt Romney's hair isn't as nice as he thinks it is.
"Part of it is jealousy. I stand by that. And here's why I don't have a lot of patience for that. My parents, they never played the victim card. My parents never said that we hope the rich people lose something so that we can get something."
-- Herman Cain
What They Think They're Saying:
"It's wrong to tear down others instead of improving your own life!"
What We Hear:
"All complaints about unfairness in the system are the equivalent of 12-year-old girls spreading mean rumors about the popular ones!"
Look, I get it. You worked your nuts off to start a business (or get your MBA or become a lawyer or whatever) so that you can finally have what you dreamed about when you were in high school: a huge swimming pool in the shape of the Van Halen logo. You obey the law, you pay your taxes. Then suddenly, this Occupy Wall Street freak show declares you to be the "one percent," and therefore the enemy. Obviously you've done nothing wrong, so their hatred must be irrational. They only hate you because you're rich!
To that, as the senior editor of a site that should goddamned well know, I can only offer one word:
"That's Mr. Batman to you."
Fucking Batman. Pop culture's greatest hero. Search Cracked.com for "Batman" and 70 percent of the site comes up. Our culture loves him, and he 1) is rich as hell and 2) can only do what he does because he's rich.
Hell, let's look at the annual poll of the most admired people in America for 2011. There are 20 people on that list, and all 20 are rich enough to be in the "hated" 1 percent. I count four billionaires on that list, and another person who is a member of a billionaire family.
Above: The 99 percent and the 1 percent. Guess which one gets the badass car.
Now go into the bedroom of any child in America. Even before the parents have the chance to call the cops, you'll see posters of pro athletes and Disney pop stars and famous actors dressed as action heroes. Millionaires, all.
That's because all of our fucking heroes are millionaires.
Hell, every Christmas we celebrate the tale of the wealthy Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. We hate him in the first part of the story, and then we love him by the end. Not because he gave away all of his wealth and became poor (he didn't), but because he stopped acting like a shithead. Do you get the incredibly subtle and nuanced message of that story?
A few million donated to the right dinosaur-cloning company would totally change this man's legacy.
You might be tempted to say, "What business is it of yours what I do with my money! Whether I use my cash to give to the poor or for gold paint to spread on naked women like goddamned Goldfinger, it's none of your business!"
Oh, dude, wouldn't life be easier if that were true? If we didn't have to answer to anybody, or feel social pressure based on the choices we make?
But, sadly, all civilization and morality rests on the fact that we have to answer to each other -- the only reason I haven't murdered a dozen people in traffic is because society will bring consequences if I do. And when you're powerful (due to being a politician, or a rich man, or having a position of authority like a priest or police officer), we turn up the heat even more. See, your power eliminates many of society's checks on your shitheadery (i.e., you can afford better lawyers), and so we have to make up for it in other ways. It's how we keep you in line. The fact that you don't like it only proves that you need it.
"Not allowing the wealthy to hunt man for sport removes all motivation to succeed."
And when we hate people, it's always for the same reason: They refuse to acknowledge that their power brings with it any responsibility. It's why we hate bullies and dictators and supervillains. It's why we hate people who benefit hugely from society and then pretend like they're living on an island with a population of only them.
Which leads us nicely to ...
#2. "You Shouldn't Be Punishing the Very People Who Make This Country Work!"
"There is a deeply disturbing message coming out of the Occupy Wall Street movement ... Simply put, it boils down to this: We must punish success ..."
He must speak really fluent Hippie.
"There'll always be those who earn more than I do, and I say, God bless them. I'm sure they work hard, did what was necessary to get ahead and should not be penalized for or feel ashamed of their accomplishments."
"The top 1 percent of wage earners in the United States pays 40 percent of the income taxes and the top 10 percent of wage earners pay 90 percent of the income taxes ... the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to create jobs in our country."
"I never got a job from a poor person."
-- Sean Hannity
"I also can't lick my elbow and hop at the same time. Life's funny, huh?"
What They Think They're Saying:
"If you punish success, society will collapse into communism!"
What We Hear:
"I have to pay higher taxes than my gardener! Waaaah!"
"I'm pretty sure he's either smoking pot or shooting up insulin back there. I forget which is which."
There are two elements to this, and I don't want to get too much into the first one because it gets into a tedious debate about tax policy and shit that nobody comes to Cracked.com to read. But, very briefly, it's the concept of "You have your job because of a rich person."
This is true, I suppose, if that rich person inherited their money and you are personally working for them as a gardener. But if you are working at a Toyota factory, your paycheck doesn't come from under the mattress of the owner of the company. That money came from lots and lots of regular Joes who bought Toyota cars. The guys in suits are just middlemen between the supply and the demand.
So as for the popular talk radio joke, "I've never gotten a job from a poor person"? Well, Sean, a lot of your listeners are poor, and your advertisers are paying you with money they made by selling goods to those poor people. So, yeah, the cash you make does in fact bear the smelly fingerprints of the lower classes. It's the same for somebody working at Walmart, or a grocery store, or a liquor store. You didn't get your job from a poor person, but collectively their money made it happen. Which is just a long way to say the obvious: That rich people don't make the world go around. It takes everybody.
Even -- no, especially -- this guy.
But the second part is this idea that asking the rich to pitch in is "punishing" them.
So, Rich Guy, let me explain this as calmly and logically as I can:
Are you fucking 6 years old? Do you still think mom made you clean up your room because she was mean? In the adult world, we get asked to do things because shit needs to get done. It has nothing to do with fairness, it has nothing to do with judging you. It has nothing to do with you at all. There's a whole world out there, with people who need helping and projects that need accomplishing.
You're only being asked to pitch in because you have the resources. You're not a tall person who us dwarfs are jealously trying to cut down to size. You're a tall person being asked to get something down from a very tall shelf because nobody else can fucking reach it.
The step stool is ... welfare?
Really ... I'm not trying to be condescending. We're all adults here.
Just ... here, how about this: Remember when Yoda told Luke he had to confront Darth Vader if he wanted to be a true Jedi? Do you think that was because Yoda hated Luke and assigned him that awful task to punish him? Was it because Yoda was jealous? Of Luke's ... height, or whatever?
Or was it because it needed to be done and Luke was the only one who could do it? Because he had the Force?
See, in our society, money is the Force.
We can't decide if the lightsabers should be lobbyists or lawyers.
Yes, I know you think you already give more than your fair share. So did Luke. So does everyone. Welcome to the human race -- we all think we're getting the shit end of the deal.
#1. "Stop Asking for Handouts! I Never Got Help from Anybody!"
"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No."
"I expect nothing to be handed to me, and will continue to work my @$$ off for everything I have. I am NOT the 99 percent, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision."
"Unless you were born in Haiti. Then the deck is kinda stacked against you."
What They Think They're Saying:
"I pulled myself up by my bootstraps!"
What We Hear:
"Because I didn't inherit millions of dollars, impoverished children don't need food stamps!"
You "never got help from anybody."
Nothing was "handed to you."
Let's say you scratched and you clawed and climbed the ladder of success. You never took a welfare check or charity, you worked three jobs to get through college. And at the end of it you look back on your labors and feel justified in saying, "I never got help from anybody."
"Wow. When you put it like that, the vast majority of my life sounds terrible."
So ... you were never a child? From birth, you were hunting and gathering your own food? You never had a mother to "hand" you milk?
You're completely self-educated? At age 4, you sought out your own knowledge, and paid teachers out of your own pocket?
I don't think you did. I'd have seen something about it on the news.
I think your parents poured untold resources into your hungry mouth. I think you had a roof over your head that was paid for by other people, I think you went to schools that were built and staffed and paid for by other people, I think you felt safe because the streets were patrolled by other people, I think you drove to your three jobs on roads paved by other people, in a car built by other people and burning oil that was drilled by other people in a nation whose borders were defended by other people.
"Don't mention it."
Look, I understand why "I ain't asking for help from nobody!" individualism works as an attitude, or a philosophy. No, you shouldn't wait for help to come along. I'll even agree that we don't impress that message hard enough on kids when they're growing up. Kids, if you're reading this, and you fucking shouldn't be, but if you are, let me tell you now:
The world doesn't give a shit about you, and you'll have to wrestle it for every good thing you get. Hell, I've written an entire article about how grown-ups don't tell us how freaking hard everything is, and how the shock of unexpected effort trips us up.
But, for the rich, this somehow gets extended to the absolutely delusional idea that they exist on a purely self-sufficient island, in an ocean full of shiftless layabouts always asking to borrow their stuff.
"More soup? Next you'll be asking to borrow one of my 12 golden Xboxes."
And you literally hear people express it this way -- in libertarian circles they refer to it as "Going Galt" (as in John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged) -- fed up rich people just disconnecting from this annoying "society" thing that's bleeding them dry. If you live in my part of the country, you'll hear hard-working, rural farmer types say, "I got my own piece of land, I grow my own food, all I want is to be left alone." All right, well tell me this, cowboy:
Let's say some mean, even richer guy, like a wealthy gangsta rapper, hired a bunch of armed thugs to come take your farm. What would you do? Your shotgun won't fend them off -- they have a hundred bigger shotguns. What will you do, call the cops? That is, other people, who will risk their lives while being paid with still other people's tax money, who will try these bad guys in a court funded by yet other people's tax money, under laws passed by legislators paid with other people's tax money? Whoa, slow down there, welfare queen!
Now fight off these Nazis with your bootstraps.
But if none of that stuff existed, there would be nothing stopping Jay-Z from taking your farm. In other words, you don't "own" shit. The entire concept of owning anything, be it a hunk of land or a house or a fucking sandwich, exists purely because other people pay other armed men to protect it. Without society, all of your brave, individual talents and efforts won't buy you a bucket of farts.
So when I say "We're all in this together," I'm not stating a philosophy. I'm stating a fact about the way human life works. No, you never asked for anything to be handed to you. You didn't have to, because billions of humans who lived and died before you had already created a lavish support system where the streets are all but paved with gold. Everyone reading this -- all of us living in a society advanced enough to have Internet access -- was born one inch away from the finish line, plopped here at birth, by other people.
"On your mark, get set -- hey! Anybody else want to watch The Office?"
So when somebody else asks for your help, in the form of charity or taxes, or because they need you to help them move a refrigerator, you can cite all sorts of reasons for not helping ("I think you're lying about needing help" or "I don't care" or "I'm too tied up with my own problems"), but the one thing you can't say is, "Why should you need help? I've never gotten help!" Not unless you're either shamefully oblivious, or a lying asshole.
Hell, if anybody could play the "I did this myself!" card, it's me. I mentioned earlier that I've made an unfair amount of money due to writing a novel about a zombie detective who only solves crimes of paranormal romance and then selling the film rights to said novel. If anything is a one-man show, it's writing a book. Nobody helped me with that. Well, I mean other than the friend who created the title character. And the publisher who spent the money to print up the copies and publicize it. And all of the previous novelists who established the medium and genre. And the public school system that taught me how to read and write, and that taught all of my readers how to read. And the people who built and maintain the Internet so that I would have a place to promote it, and the people who maintain the roads so that the books could be shipped from Amazon ...
You get the idea.
David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked.com and a NYT bestselling author; his long-awaited new novel is about cybernetic criminals and other futuristic shit like that. Pre-order it at Amazon, B&N, BAM!, Indiebound, iTunes, or Powell's. You can read the first seven chapters for free by clicking below:
For more from David, see 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen and The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey.
David Wong is the Senior Editor of Cracked.com and the author of the New York Times bestseller This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It, available wherever books like that are sold.