Work-ethically challenged

August 26, 2012 

There are some very simple reasons as to how we went from a philosophy of equal opportunity to the redistribution of wealth. Those reasons involve work ethic, vision, common sense, and yes, the environment into which we are born.

Years ago, I commuted to Middle Georgia College from Warner Robins. We would take the road out of Bonaire, Seven Bridges I believe it was called, and on to Cochran for a day of classes and then make the drive back.

Quite often, when the season was right, we would see a young fellow on the back of a large tractor plowing a field in Bonaire. His name was Sonny Perdue and he came from a successful family. He could have been content with mediocrity, just doing what he needed to do to get by, inherit whatever there was to inherit, but we all know what became of that young man.

His inheritance was work ethic, among other things, and it probably came from someone who raised him. It’s hard to put a finger on work ethic because it’s usually instilled early in life and can take unfortunate forms.

For instance, I can work very hard at being a thief. Some find it by listening to and watching a hard-working relative, or serving in the military where not working can sometimes find one in the brig. Unfortunately, there are no games found on the Blu-ray that teach work ethic.

Unless you have work ethic, you really have nothing as your opportunity will surely slip away. But ol’ Sonny had something else that’s probably as important as work ethic and that was a vision. I suspect it came from a lot of different sources -- parents, teachers, church folks and mentors. Someone gave him a realistic vision of what he could become and he ran with it.

Visions are difficult to come by if the people around you have never had one. Most successful people were given a vision by another successful person. You can define success. Equal opportunity without a vision is waste because one hasn’t a clue as to how to put the opportunity to use and cannot get on the road to success, so to speak.

Visions ideally come early in life when one is preparing for a life’s work. Common sense will tell you that if you don’t have work ethic and a vision and someone comes along with a check -- you’d better darn well take it, opportunity be damned. There may not be another one coming along for a while. And yes, our environment contributes to all of it.

For instance, if I grow up with a mother who shoplifts at Wal-Mart, then comes home and brags about the great day she had at “work,” I begin to believe that to be the way to success. I cannot wait to put my work ethic to good use by doing what mom does, perhaps even improving on her methods.

Would you like to call that culture? Doesn’t make it right, but it becomes “normal” for me and I consider myself a success as a shoplifter with all the important self-esteem that entails.

How we have slowly gone from the idea of equal opportunity to the idea of redistribution of wealth involves opinion. The majority opinion is slowly coming around to the idea that, because some have no means of obtaining monetary success in any other way, they might as well take what those who were given the work ethic and vision have accumulated.

If we applied this to the Olympics, we would simply allow the best athletes to continue to do what they do, train for years, sacrifice time, money and friends until they receive their medal and then melt the thing down for those who came up short, then all would share the reward.

Where would the incentive to train and work hard come from for those who are work-ethically challenged (new term), if they knew in the end the rewards would be shared regardless of effort?

When certain values are not present, I would take a guaranteed check over opportunity every time, and when work-ethically challenged people with no vision become the majority, things are going to get interesting. And we are very close.

Sonny Harmon is an educator at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at

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