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Charles Payne at the DHFC West Coast Retreat: The Real Class Struggle Is the Poor Suppressing Their Own

Posted on April 14 2011 12:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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There is a struggle between the classes, we are told. The haves are dominating the have-nots. If only the oppressive wealthy would let up and allow the poor to rise, there would be social justice and equality.

It has been an effective narrative. But it has ignored the tremendous social pressure placed upon “have-nots” by members of their own community.

Consider Charles Payne. You might recognize him from his regular guest appearances on the Fox Business Network. Payne is the CEO and Chief Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, sought after for his market opinions. But he didn’t start there.

In his keynote address at David Horowitz’s recent West Coast Retreat, he spoke of his rise from rags to riches, and the upward mobility available in America. The oldest of three brothers, Payne spent his early years as an army brat at Fort Lee in Virgina. He recalls being content with simple pleasures. His parents’ relationship was strained, however. Eventually, his mother moved the boys to Harlem where Payne caught his first glimpse of true poverty. Payne describes a loss of innocence in an environment where “wineos, junkies, and hobos” were common decor.

Necessity forced him to begin working at the age of 13. It was then that he learned the value of money. It occurred to him that earning more would improve his standard of living. To his young mind, that meant working on Wall Street. So he sought an education in finance, by stealing copies of the Wall Street Journal.

It was easy, because no one thought the black kid over looking by the Journal was going to steal it.

Remarkable as this aspiration was, it did not come without consequence. Payne told his mother, and anyone who would listen, that he wanted to work on Wall Street.

She believed in me. But no one else really did.

The response among peers went beyond disbelief to outright hostility.

We sounded white. We wore the wrong clothes. I liked Elton John. That meant I got beat up every day… I’m talking really serious beat downs… We went from riding bikes all day [in the comparatively idyllic Fort Lee]… to that, simply because we sounded white, we wore the wrong clothes, and I was a pretty good student.

Payne overcame adversity and fulfilled his aspiration. But how many children facing similar cultural herding do not?

There is perhaps no greater inhibitor to individual achievement than the psychological oppression applied by family, friends, and a community imposing “normalcy.” Anecdotal though the evidence may be, I would stake that the most upwardly mobile among us care least about what others think. They learn to temper their relationships with reason, never elevating acceptance above rational self-interest.

The alternative is to concede to the herd, to accept the limits imposed by others. That is not to say conformity is inherently bad. Informed by rational self-interest, conformity serves us well. Too often, however, conformity occurs for conformity’s sake.

Consider homeschooling for example. Despite the superior results homeschooling produces, many shutter at the thought of “sheltering” a child from “the real world.” They wonder how a home-schooled child will be socialized. But when did we determine that raising kids in a segregated peer group with diffused parental influence was the proper way to socialize them? What does putting a five-year-old in a room with other five-year-olds teach them about the world they’ll come to live in? The argument for mainstream education becomes an argument for achieving “normalcy.” You don’t want your child to be different, do you?

This esoteric reverence of sameness, which we all experience in the form of fashion and peer pressure, is elevated above objective outcomes. Do I want my child to be different? If by different you mean productive, wealthy, and fulfilled — yes! Yet, for many, the long-term value of a distinctive achievement is obscured by the desire to “fit in.”

The Left is the political expression of this class herding phenomenon. To the Left, the greatest sin is personal achievement, particularly professional distinction and commercial success. Why have the Oscars become such a sanctimonious expression of  “social consciousness?” Because, to a leftist, there is no virtue in personal honor or individual achievement. Their work must be more “important” than that, a service to all mankind.

Ask yourself: Would Edison have created the light bulb if he cared more about normalcy than achievement? Would Ford have produced the Model T? Would Gates or Jobs be the men they are today, having elevated our capacity for productivity, if they conceded to the lower expectations of society?

This is why our contemporary concept of equality, which long ago ballooned beyond the confines of equal treatment under the law, is fundamentally immoral. It turns exceptionalism into a vice. It makes a sin of achievement. It regards distinction as audacity. It is a savage talisman of mediocrity, an idol of regression, the bane of human endeavor. It must be heaped with unbridled contempt upon the inglorious pyre of history.

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