Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Teacher Tom: The Absurd Myth of the "Self-Made Man"

Teacher Tom: The Absurd Myth of the "Self-Made Man"
The Absurd Myth of the "Self-Made Man"

In Rudolf Erich Raspe's story The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the baron saves himself from drowning in a swamp by pulling himself out by his own hair. It's a ridiculous episode in a comic story about a character who notoriously weaves wondrous tales that are clearly untrue. 

We're amused by the absurdity of it, yet too many of us, in the real world, act as if we believe in the equally absurd myth of the "self-made man," this idea that success comes from the capacity to pull oneself up by one's own bootstraps. It's a persistent and even harmful lie we tell ourselves about what it means to to succeed. Popular culture is full of Baron Munchausen's, dressed up as solitary heroes. John Wayne made a career out of playing them in the movies, dodging the bullets that kill lesser soldiers or cowboys, defying all convention, applying his unique courage, vision, and grit to single-handedly saving the day. In the real world, of course, there are no Rambos or James Bonds. They are fictional characters as ridiculous in their way as Baron Munchausen. To believe in them outside of a fantasy world is to buy into a kind of Neo-Calvinism, where the degree to which we are doomed is the degree to which we have failed to pull hard enough on our bootstraps.

In preschool, we tend to emphasize such things as sharing CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: The Absurd Myth of the "Self-Made Man"