Since I was young, I’ve been told that I can be anything that I want to be. The implication that was silently included in that statement was that if I worked hard enough, there was no job or position or achievement that I couldn’t reach if I just did all the things required to get there. Nearly every member of my generation and beyond has been told this over and over again until we came to the unfortunate place of actually learning to believe it. For many, it is an immutable truth that no amount of evidence to the contrary can overcome. It is ingrained in who we are.
One of my favorite quotes in modern times comes from the political commentator Ben Shapiro in which he states the simple but effective phrase “facts don’t care about your feelings”. Like most things when it comes to politics and ideologies, I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of what Shapiro has to say on certain subjects, but we do agree on this one thing: no matter how you feel about something, sometimes things are the way they are and there isn’t anything positive you can do to change it. The only other option is to burn it all down, and that rarely leads to a good outcome for anyone.
There are many things in the world that people want to do that they simply aren’t capable of doing, no matter how hard they try or what they learn or how much help they get from others. When it comes to getting something done, some people are just ready made for certain tasks while others are so prohibitively misaligned with something that they do far more harm than good. It isn’t their fault that they struggle or fail at a task; it just isn’t within their scope of ability. There isn’t anything wrong with being unable to perform everything you put your mind to.
The mistake that many have made in the past has been attributing things that really have nothing to do with the performance of a task. The color of your skin has nothing to do with your ability to perform complex mathematics calculations, for example, and your gender has nothing to do with your ability to form a logical idea. For most of our history our prejudices have found limitations based on things that don’t really apply, and it is because of this that we are experiencing such an unrealistic revolution in things like feminism and continued race tensions. Because of unreasonable prohibitions that occurred in the past, the reasonable judgements of the present are unfairly questioned and people are labeled as prejudiced when the truth is that not everyone can do everything.
As an example, for much of my time as a Marine Corps musician I was on track to become a Drum Major. I spent a great deal of time leading the various units I was a part of in performances both big and small because I was good at what I did and I impressed my leaders with my ability to do the job. Many of my qualities were very much suited to performing in that particular capacity. I’m right at six feet tall, which makes me slightly taller than average and gave me a much better position to not only create an imposing bearing but also ensure that the band members in the back were able to see what I was doing. My voice, while not particularly deep or resonant, could be projected quite far which made me able to participate in large parades to communicate over long distances. I also have a strong sense of spatial awareness which allowed me to not only be aware of the band behind me, but also to have a natural ability to perform the specific movements with the ceremonial mace used to direct the band. All in all, I had a lot of things going for me in the pursuit of that particular goal.
On the other hand, there were some members of the program who wanted to be drum majors, but simply weren’t good candidates. Many of these were female, but it wasn’t their gender that made them unsuitable. They were short, so the back rows struggled to see them. They had feminine voices that wouldn’t carry, so in many situations they were difficult to hear. Females in general struggle with spatial awareness as compared to males, so their mace work was just not very clean or sharp because they were always struggling to know where it was at any given point without looking at it, and it looks terrible to watch someone who is supposed to look mostly like a statue swaying about trying to control a moving object.
This is a simple but applicable example of some people just not being suitable for certain things. Several of the drum major candidates I saw during my time were selected solely because they were female and not because they had any real talent or ability for the craft. I don’t really blame them because they just wanted to do something that looked interesting. It’s not wrong to have a dream. The fault lies with the leadership who failed to recognize that they weren’t optimized for that particular position, or knew but were too cowardly of potential social backlash because they didn’t want to be labeled as “sexist”.
Society today is abound with examples just like this one. People are placed in positions they have no business in because we have created racial and gender based quotas so that people don’t have to “feel bad”. This brings us right back to the top where Shapiro tells us that your feelings are irrelevant when it comes to getting things done. You’re either capable of doing a good job or you aren’t. No amount of wishing or hoping or anything else is going to change reality.
The harsh truth is that we were lied to as children; you can’t be anything you want to be. A more true statement would have been something like “you can be whatever you want to be so long as it’s within your natural abilities”, but that doesn’t sound nearly as inspirational, which is why no one ever said it that way. Again, sparing people’s feelings rarely results in a net positive, which is why our society is crumbling the way it is today. Until people stop prioritizing emotion over reality, it will only get worse.