What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You can't always get what you want

In class the other night, the phrase, "Looking back on it, you can see you got what you needed when you needed it" was spoken out loud. This was in context of the discussion on how to stop worrying (how this fits into Effective Personal Communications is a bit too long to explain, let's just say I don't believe it does).

It rankled me then as a simplistic tautology similar to "That which survives, survives." It was thrown out by the instructor as a "humanist" way of saying, "Let go and let God" (although there followed a discussion on who was what religion).

I could go into the various subtextual meanings about "what you need" and "when you needed it" and how that differs from what you want and what would be sparkly. But instead it's the very ignorance of the phrase that galls me. It's an argument of privilege that gives succor to the living and ignores a vast ocean of troubles. It is the mantra of those who live the unexamined life. It's an excuse to not go beyond yourself and stay behind your wall. It's the battle cry of those who skate through life.

What bothers me most about this simple minded, asinine concept is that I know people for whom this isn't true. And in my future career I expect I will meet scores more.

This is not an argument about, "I didn't get the pony I wanted for Xmas." This is about, "My friend didn't get a heart in time for a transplant." This is about, "My friend didn't get enough space to avoid the car that ran over his moped." This is about all my friends who have experienced (and some are still experiencing) the deepest, darkest realms of their souls. It's even about friends who just never seem to get a fair shake in life.

This phrase waves a hand at their suffering and tragedy magically immunizing the speaker from guilt or empathy and a need to help.

This is also about that person who did get a heart transplant in time, because the person who donated it didn't get what they needed when they needed it. It about that person who didn't see my friend on the moped until it was too late. It's about those who may have had a hand in pushing my friends into those pits and may have done it from their own fortress of pain.

To be fair, my instructor who put it out there has had some tough times in the past. My guess is that those times for her are magnified by the life of relative privilege she grew up in. Of course, I'm sure there's much more to her story than what she's shared. And everybody's personal pain is the greatest pain in the world, and you really shouldn't compare them to others (the "buck up, you could have it worse" arguments).

There are legions, however, who didn't even get the chance, for whom there were no real options. The nations of individuals for whom the cavalry didn't arrive in time.

"You get what you need when you need it." What a stupid, fucking, moronic aphorism.

At least I now know why my blood boils when I think of it.


Mer said...


No. NO. There have been many, many times in my relatively charmed life when I did not get what I needed when I needed it, and that includes simple things like geometry tutoring in the 9th grade and much other stuff I have no intention of airing on the internet.

Suffering is a THING. The people who aren't getting what they need when they need it are the people who are doing the suffering. And it's not just in the context of survival.

It's like "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger"--not the case, EITHER.

Steve Buchheit said...

Well, Mer, that was the other quote that the same person spewed out at us.

And, yes, I think we could all point out examples of when we didn't get what we need when we needed it, which changed or affected the course of our lives.

I'm trying to remain positive in class, and not go off on some tirade, as most of my grade is subjective.