You get what you give, not what you give up.
I have a thought experiment to demonstrate how much I love Guns N’ Roses. It goes like this: If you offered me $50 million to never listen to Civil War again, I wouldn’t take the money. $100 million wouldn’t do it. Neither would $200 million. You’d have to kill me to get me to stop listening to Civil War—and Civil War isn’t even in my list of top ten GNR songs.
Think about it: Taking that $50 million wouldn’t be like taking $50 million dollars you found in a briefcase on the street. That $50 million would be symbolic of the fact that you cannot listen to Civil War ever again. It would be your “not Civil War” money. If I used the money to buy a house, it would be my “not Civil War” house. If I used the money to go on vacation, it would be my “not Civil War” vacation. If I used the money to live carefree for the rest of my life, it would be my “not Civil War” life.
My life wouldn’t be defined by what I gave, it would be defined by what I gave up.
In other words, I’d have a great life with no reason to have a great life. It’s like cutting off your penis to go on a date with a Perfect 10 model—what would be the point?
An exercise similar to my GNR thought experiment arises in about hour three of every bro’d-out road trip. It typically takes the form of a question like this: “How much would you have to be paid to let a bum rape you?” The correct answer, Gavin McInnes contends, is $10 million:
Of course you’d [get raped] to end world hunger, but what would you refuse?… What about some kind of Koch Brothers/Soros fund that finances a political movement? Is that worth the sacrifice of being violated once? How about a $7-million fund that encourages entrepreneurs? It’s not a mindless charity that throws money at a problem to make people feel better about themselves. It’s designed to get valid businesses off the ground, and it has a payback clause that enables the fund to grow. It could create jobs and last forever. At this point, it feels selfish to deny all these people a living. Refusing this kind of money doesn’t send a dignified message. It says, “Be selfish.” [Taki Mag]
Fair enough, but let’s back up a little bit. As you’re lying there—face down, ass up—getting dryly penetrated by a hepatitis syringe, you’re going to be doing some thinking, especially about all the decisions you’ve made that led you to this point. I would know, a stripper in Tijuana once raped me with her mouth^1, and this is what I was thinking about as it was happening. In particular, you think about all the bad decisions you’ve ever made, because it’s not the good decisions that led you to point rape.
I’d assume Mcinnes has made mostly good decisions. He’s started several successful companies, he has a family who he hasn’t abandoned, and he’s a smart guy. Yet he’s still willing to use his ass as a moneymaker in lieu of using his brain as a moneymaker.
This speaks to a problem with the American psyche I see all the time, especially in my generation. We believe work is inherently a sacrifice. If there ever was a bane on the economy, it’s not corrupt politicians, or laziness, or immigrants who “take our jobs“—it’s that we weigh down our productivity with this victim-y baggage: I’d rather let a bum shame me and make me feel helpless than go to work. And why not? Work is only there to shame me and make me feel helpless, anyway.
Even worse, by getting raped in the ass for $10 million, you’re telling yourself you cannot make that money on your own. Great attitude, dude. Trump wouldn’t get raped for $10 million. He wouldn’t get a different haircut for $10 million.
It didn’t always used to be this way. The Enlightenment was born of the love for work. You cannot have a free society without it, as Victor Hugo famously stated: “Work makes man free, and thought makes him worthy of freedom.” And this was the French attitude toward work.
Then came Marxism. In order to destroy freedom, Marx first had to destroy work. After a few generations of this indoctrination that rationalized every lazy, whiny impulse in humanity, the attitude that built the Enlightenment didn’t last. Now it’s illegal in France to work too much. This is like making it illegal to have sex too much (which Marx would have wanted, too).
America may have more anti-Marxist T-cells than France, but we’re not immune. As Marx said work alienated the worker, now we say work is a huge pain in the worker’s ass, which is colloquially the same thing.
I would expect this kind of attitude toward work from my fellow grad students. Most of us are in grad school because we haven’t come to terms with work. McInnes, however, is a defender of political freedom, yet he’s denigrating that which makes men free. I don’t care how well a nation integrates the foundations of classical liberalism, like free will and individual rights—if we have little thought about that which makes us free, then, as Hugo reminds us, we are unworthy of that freedom.
Sure, work may be difficult sometimes, and your venture may fail and make you look like a dumbass, and your girlfriend may leave you because you’re a penniless loser, but the undercurrent of it all is a deep sense of satisfaction. To give up your asshole as fiat work is to misunderstand this true purpose of work, and so freedom.
When you understand work for what it is, a bum rape question will seem silly, as opposed to a serious proposition that merits analysis. Questions like “how much would I have to be paid to let a bum rape me?” will be replaced with questions like “how much would I need to work to make my talents useful?”
More importantly, when you refuse to give up anything to get what you want, you become the center of your psychological universe, you become a child of the Enlightenment, and you develop a feeling that cannot be replaced with all the money in the world.
Only then will you know how I feel when I listen to GNR.