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Your Argument is Invalid

  Alright, Internet, for the second week in a row I’m going to have to issue a citation regarding your inability to think things through. But don’t worry – I’m here to help. To give you all (or the three of you who read this) some context, while puttering around on the good ol’ Book of Faces, I had the joy of coming across a couple of recurring arguments that really, really need to be retired. By no means will I ever do an extensive list of stupid arguments, as it would take an infinite amount of researchers with an infinite amount of funding to properly document such things.

  There is, however, one chestnut that stood out in recent readings:

“Well, it worked out for me.”

  Sure, a variant of this is included on Cracked’s list of what rich people need to stop saying (it’s #4), but it’s not just the rich who say such things. Indeed, I’m pretty sure we’ve all said it at some point or another. It’s a go-to argument when you can’t think of a pithy retort or, you know, evidence. I’m sure if you comb my site, you can probably find an example of me being lazy and throwing it out there. The point is that this is an intense logical fallacy that operates on the notion that everyone has the same set of skills and capabilities as everyone else, which is preposterous. As such, it fundamentally invalidates the argument that you’re trying to make.

  This crops up frequently over the discussion concerning the minimum wage or anything of the like. It usually is framed as a negative comparison – “Well, I worked at a job making x while supporting y, I don’t see why everyone can’t do the same!” – and shows the limited scope of understanding that the person making said argument has about the world around them. Things like average cost of living vary pretty wildly across the country, for starters. And that’s not including anything like the continued gender divide in pay that doggedly refutes ideas of systemic equality.

  But even at its most basic level, it becomes clear that the person making these claims is actually fairly disconnected from reality rather than just making an ignorant claim. In order for this to actually work, everyone needs to be capable of precisely the same thing from the moment they're born. That means they have the same capacity for learning, the same physicality, and the same aptitudes for the same thing. They also need to not be suffering from any physical or mental disabilities which could prevent them from reaching their full potential.

  This also means that they have at the very least equal capacity for mobility once they are of an age that they can begin working. What do I mean by this? Well, I mean either reliable public transportation or other means of personal conveyance. Why is this important? Well, unless these terrifying copies live within walking distance to their job, they need to get there in a timely fashion through alternate means. And despite what you may think, the person who has the car or the bike has the advantage over the person who has the bus ride, because they get to operate on their own schedules.

  “But what about maintenance costs? Surely the bus saves people money!” Sure does, hypothetical screaming Internet commentator! But is the money being saved comparable to the time this person could be spent at home doing chores, spending time with their children, or whatever it is people do when not sharing a too-small bus seat with a man who can only sit with his legs splayed and communicates solely with heavy breathing? And if that’s the case and that saved money does make up for the time lost waiting for public transit, then surely the person with the reliable car trumps the person who can only afford a lemon in constant need of repairs, right? So as you can see, there are already disparities forming in our world of perfectly capable clones.

  Especially because, for the sake of the everyone-is-the-same narrative, our little merry band of faceless drones also need to have the same upbringing. This means the same access to wealth and material comforts. But it would also be predicated on every child-clone being brought up on the worth of money; that is to say, they would need to earn their allowance rather than simply ask and receive toys and such. Do you still think that everyone, fundamentally speaking, is capable of the precise sequence of events that lead you to your success?

  Oh, and speaking of family, this notion also invalidates any idea of nepotism, the idea that someone is valued specifically for their genetic relationship to the person in charge. Sure, in the clone-world, one’s quality of work is the metric by which they are judged. But in our world (affectionately known as “reality”), someone can have a job that they’re terrible at simply because their parents run the company. A political opponent of Leslie Knope in the show Parks and Recreation was only in that position because his father was powerful enough to make it happen – sure, it’s fictional, but JFK was groomed to be president because his dad wanted it real bad. And that’s just one example from the world of politics. Extend this behavior to friends, and I guarantee you that nearly every single reader has at least one instance of someone horribly inept being gainfully employed because they have an in with the boss.

  No matter how much people want to ignore this fact, it remains resolute that we all start with pretty wildly different lives, and how we grow up directly influences what we end up becoming skilled in or what we choose to ignore. Supporting a child’s love of writing by giving them books, a computer to write on, and a tutor is going to produce vastly different results than a parent who ignores their child’s dreams for the sake of drinking heavily. I’m not saying that drive isn’t an important part of it, but despite what we’re told, drive is only part of the equation. Drive plus support plus a healthy amount of luck is what makes success – and even then, that’s not a guarantee. How many fucking authors are successes after they die, if they’re ever heard from at all?

  I mean, good god, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, one of the most lauded books of all time and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, was ignored for publication time and time again until the author killed himself. It was his mother who basically begged a college professor to read the goddamn thing and put his support behind it. Then and only then did someone publish it – over ten years after guy killed himself. DRIVE CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH.

  But perhaps I should put this in infinitely more hazardous terms. Allow me to paint a picture for you: imagine plopping four people in the middle of Death Valley. Each one is thrust unprepared for what happened, but is provided something based on whatever their family could afford. Also, apparently, this test is run by Jigsaw.

Or Willy Wonka. It could really go either way.
Or Willy Wonka. It could really go either way.

  Our first contestant has asthma and is equipped for their journey with an inhaler and that’s it. Another is a marathon runner with a gallon of water in hand – they are a little better off, but still kind of fucked. Then you have someone on a bicycle and a water recycling apparatus strapped to their body. And then you have Paris Hilton in a fully fueled climate-controlled all-terrain vehicle with a mini-fridge. Their goal is to cross the unyielding desert without dying.

  Now, sure, you can argue all kinds of things here to avoid the actual point: Ms. Hilton can possibly seat additional people in her ATV, or the bicyclist should have traded in his water-thingy for an ATV as well. You also can blame the other two for having families unable to provide something more substantial to the trial. But at the end of the day, each of these people relies on what their family could get for them. To suggest that the first two are almost guaranteed to die because they “didn’t want it enough” is just being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. And if one of Ms. Hilton’s friends looks at the sun-bleached bones of her fellow competitors and determines “Well, she did it, so they must just suck,” they are complete failures as human beings.

  Putting aside tortured desert-based metaphors, we return to this idea of the level playing field. Now, either human beings are clone slugs or individuals that come in a wide variety of flavors. They cannot be both. And you know what? If you are a resolute capitalist, your entire financial ideology is fundamentally predicated on the fact that not everyone is capable of the same thing. I’m not trying to be difficult or obtuse here, but in order for this argument to hold any kind of water, everyone needs to be functionally identical. This further undermines the argument, because it makes any accomplishment whatsoever trivial. Oh, so you managed to work one job at minimum wage and built your own house? So what, when apparently anyone can fucking do what you did? Do you see how this is problematic?

  See, the biggest problem with this whole stupid thing is that there are people who definitely have one set of skills they are better at than others. Some people will make excellent academics but will make pathetic baristas. Some will make great politicians but be literally terrible at everything else. Some will be really good at starting businesses, but absolutely shit at the book keeping part of it and would prefer to go on to other ventures than stick with what they helped create. And a lot of people with a lot of drive will never, ever get the chance to be in a field they could excel in because shitty circumstances. It happens, and we need to acknowledge that.

  At the end of the day, this type of handwave-explanation is just to divorce oneself from empathy to your fellow man. It’s the precise kind of excuse that allows you to ignore what someone is actually saying in favor of remaining steadfastly disconnected with the world around you. To be honest, I’d have much more respect for people if they wore “Fuck You, Got Mine” on their shoulder than try to take some bullshit, imaginary principled stand.

  I still wouldn’t like the fuckers, but luckily, I don’t have to.

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