In the Book of Ecclesiastes, it says… that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
But the older I get, the more evident it becomes that time and chance happeneth more favourably – and a whole lot more often – to the very demanding and the very rich (who may or may not be demanding as well). Which seems to me inordinately unfair. The meek may indeed inherit the earth at some later date, but do they have to be tried quite so severely while they hang about waiting for the Millennium?
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the big issues that get to me here. We all know that the rich will get richer, and if manipulating millions appeals to them more than putting their feet up with a juicy thriller, then good luck to them. No, it’s the small stuff that bothers me: the fact that because they’re rich, they’ll always get the first cab off the rank, figuratively speaking. Or even literally. In the unlikely event that they might want a cab instead of a limo, they’ll somehow be wafted to the head of the queue while the rest of us stand in the rain with our dodgy umbrellas. And they’re the ones who’ll be served first in a restaurant, whisked through customs at the airport, and showered with rich gifts despite needing them less than anyone else on the planet. Not much time and chance there, I would have thought.
And yet…and yet… Even they pale into insignificance beside the unfailing triumph of the demanding. In today’s world, it isn’t time or chance that snatches the race from the swift or the battle from the strong. It’s the person who jumps up and down and screams the loudest.
There’s a lot to be said for the championship of assertiveness. The meek may ultimately inherit the earth, but in the meantime, doormats get trodden on. It’s the nature of things. But there’s also a big difference between assertiveness and aggression, and between self-esteem and self-centredness, and sadly, the distinctions have become blurred. We no longer state our needs or ask politely for what we’d like with due regard to the needs and wants of others. We demand our rights – and ‘rights’, it seems to me, covers anything we may happen to fancy, to be delivered NOW. The result is that assertive is the new wimpish, and ‘love thy neighbour’ has sunk under the weight of a fierce devotion to loving thyself. So when the ball of chance is lobbed to a considerate, undemanding player, you can be fairly sure it will be snatched from his/her grasp by someone high on the psychological steroids of distilled self-interest and all-encompassing entitlement.
Many people will no doubt see this as admirable. Life is never fair, and we all have to fend for ourselves as best we can. But it saddens me that care and consideration are gradually being swamped by the tide of demanding aggression, and that if the meek do ultimately inherit the earth, they’ll be too battered to enjoy it.