Everybody knows the Lily Tomlin line, “The bad thing about the rat race is that, even if you win it, you’re still a rat.” You know that joke, but the problem is that our culture produces individuals who, while good and decent in their personal relationships, civically only know how to function as rats. From their first spelling bee, through competitive sports, to competing for promotions, they have been trained to turn on each other when anything truly important is at stake. Is it any wonder our elections have come to resemble nothing so much as a bad Jerry Springer show?

Anyone who works for community is demeaned in this culture. When you are a social
worker or a teacher, you roller skate uphill to work every day. It’s not just the low paycheck, it’s that your work is not seen as quite adult. When you do anything that helps people in general, you’re seen as “less than.” Our inability to co-operate and work for the common good lies behind so many problems of our day that seem insurmountable.

So this is a thank you note to every teacher or social worker. Thank you for dropping out of the rat race. I know you will never win this culture’s prizes, but I want you to know you are my hero.