Survival Skills: The Lost Art of Self-reliance

The backbone of America has always been the courage and indomitable determination of its people, no more so than in the wide-eyed enthusiasm and optimism of our youth.

But something has changed. Something fundamentally dangerous has weakened the latest generations. Not all mind you, but an increasingly significant number have no intestinal fortitude.


Some of the signs have been with us for a bit of time.

Handing out trophies for 9th place in a 9-team league.

Mercy rules to control the margin of victory (actually to anesthetize the pain of losing.)

The need for warnings about trigger words or safe zones where no one need be offended by, well, anything.

It is from the whirlwind of our disagreements that our best solutions arise. We chose to ignore this because somebody’s feelings may be hurt when we point out they are whining idiots.

Nothing better illustrates the “sissifying” (oops, trigger word warning, politically inappropriate term for those who lack self-respect or backbone)  of America than a commercial on various TV channels.

Two young men stand at the side of the road next to a disabled car. The car has a flat tire. One young man is on the phone with his father listening as the father explains their insurance company doesn’t have roadside assistance. Between the two men, they don’t know what a lug wrench is.

The father, instead of whining about the insurance company, should be teaching his son how to change a damn tire. I mean, you put the kid in charge of a several thousand pound mobile projectile lacking even rudimentary skills to perform such a simple task? It borders on child abuse.

We have raised a generation of illiterate and dependent mice on which rests the future of the country.


And then there’s the bullying phenomenon. It is as if bullies are a new invention no other generation ever faced. It’s not. Life is not fair. Get over it. I know I’ll hear from those who have some perceived example of extreme bullying, but I have an answer.

I honestly think this nonsense all began when parents switched sides in schools and adopted the mantra of not my kid, turning teachers into the enemy. If we once again gave teachers the latitude and respect they deserve, things might change. With our renewed support to let teachers quickly and forcefully address bad behavior, instead of looking for some external factor to blame, it would pay dividends in the future.

Instead, some parents blame teachers for the poor performance of their kids without making the least effort to support the teacher’s efforts at home.  Your child’s education is not something you order online; it is something you participate in and reinforce.  If your kids are failing it is not due solely to the teachers.

At the high school I attended, Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, there was a legendary teacher named J. Richard Charland.  He taught a business course and was the Dean of Students. The title Dean of Students is a kinder and gentler way of saying head disciplinarian.

When you were there, you lived in fear of crossing him. He would often tell us that he had spoken to our parents and they gave him permission to knock us around if we got out of line. Whether it was true or not, most of us believed it.

Some had it demonstrated.

Mr. Charland recently passed away and the universal outpouring of admiration and respect from several decades of CHS graduates (and even a few who may have had a shortened high school career) was telling. He made a difference and helped steer generations of CHS grads towards being better adults.

His reputation was built on a demand for mutual respect and underlying love of students. He dealt with those incidents that inevitably arise in the hormone-ravaged teenaged years firmly, swiftly, and appropriately.

No one sued the school when they addressed problems. No one blamed teachers for bad grades. No one looked to some psychological excuse for bad behavior.

I wonder if we can ever reclaim the courage, heart, and endurance that built this country if we have generations who lack fundamental respect for teachers, basic math or literacy skills, or can’t even change a tire?

Please don’t bully me or say things that may trigger my anxiety.

Reality and Atoms


It takes years to realize, you are not unique. It is disappointing, then depressing, then comforting. Most people are raised by their parents as if they were the most unique human ever. It is just a protective mechanism that gradually decreases as you become capable of handling the disappointment.

The good part being that you realize pretty much everyone has done stupid shit just like you did. Those that never did generally become School committee members and worry about things like trying to stop bullying behavior with rallies and t-shirts.

I think self-defense classes are a better idea. Bullies are just crying for help, they need to have their asses kicked. I say we help them by training everyone to do that. We can have t-shirts made “Beat a Bully to make them Better”.

Shakespeare wrote “there’s nothing new under the sun” and there’s nothing (about) you that is different under the sun.

It is not being different that makes someone special, it is being human, just like the other 3+ billion of us on the planet, and doing something different with our fleeting moment, in this particular configuration, in this universe.

Prior to, at my best estimate, October 1955, all of the atoms that coalesced into the fertilized embryo that became me, were part of something else. (for purposes of explanation I was born on July 25th, 1956, doing the math of a normal human embryonic fertilization and development, the sperm and egg that became me met sometime in October, 1955). I try not to think of the reality of that matter, jeez it was my mother and father, eewwhhhuugh.

I was, perhaps, the benefit of the romanticism of a full October moon. Or more likely, knowing the limited time off my father had at home as a Rhode Island State Trooper, a moment of opportunity.

Perhaps the atoms in a grill cheese sandwich that my mother enjoyed, or a glass of milk that my father drank because he didn’t like coffee, became me.

At any rate, it was something else, then it was me. Not different, just arranged differently.

We really are all stardust.

The cells of the hair you spend so much time arranging in perfect symmetry are composed of atoms that were once, perhaps, an element of a Roman sword, or Aristotle’s toenail, or part of a grain of sand on the beach of Normandy. Or, for those that would enjoy this, formerly an atom of a Victoria Secrets model.

Perhaps, it is in the efficiency of the recycling processes of nature that we should recognize God.

No Atom left behind.