Choosing To Fail

The idea that we live in a meritocracy where you can bootstrap yourself into any role you like and thrive (e.g. the rugged American individualist cowboy trope) does us more harm than good. It reframes hard working people who are failing due to forces beyond their control as not working hard enough. As opposed to, they need the help that we’ve all received at one time or another to get to our relative successes and now it’s our turn to be the helper… but they should be able to help themselves, right?
I’ve been pondering this after watching a heart rending documentary short on people in North Carolina who are totally willing to work but live in an area where there are literally no jobs. They hang on like the dream’s going to come back. This was a few weeks prior to the election. If I can find a link to it I’ll add it here. Well afterwards I wondered why they didn’t relocate (choices: eat OR stay in ancestral home) and what we could be doing to help them… but tellingly one of the interviewees said this, and with great pride, “I’ve never accepted welfare or anything!” – it’s not explained why he feels that way but in other statements he’s expecting the government to “invest in infrastructure” so he can have meaningful work and support himself in the future… yet he’s declining the financial support that he’s paid into via his taxes that would allow him to either survive long enough to see that or to relocate to get work right now? How do you help someone like that?