Bootstrapping Over Time

Don’t try to do the impossible.

Here’s an interesting little tidbit that was brought to my attention by a friend. (Hi, Kevin!) The expression, “Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” used to mean attempting to do something that’s impossible. If you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

After all, a bootstrap is a loop on a boot that is most often used to help pull the boot onto your foot. If you’re wearing boots, and you’re down on the ground, there’s no way on earth that you’re going to grab those bootstraps and pull yourself back into a standing position. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page confirms this original interpretation.

Somewhere along the line, this phrase got twisted around to mean that you should rely on yourself. Don’t ask for help. Toughen up and get standing. If you’re unable to stand up on your own, well, you’re a massive failure.

This sounds like classic Republican doublespeak to me. It’s a way of saying, “Don’t rely on public assistance regardless of your circumstance! Don’t get vaccinated! Why should your healthcare be our responsibility? You should be able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps just like everybody else!”

This modern-day bootstrapping attitude demonstrates a total lack of communal responsibility. It’s also dangerous. If the individuals in society are set up for failure, it leads to depression, frustration, anger, and violence.

It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to admit that there are some things that you just can’t handle on your own. Sophisticated and functional societies know this, and have social safety nets in place. No one should be shamed for accessing those safety nets.

Anyone who claims to have gotten where they are today by simply having a stiff upper lip and an inflexible sense of self-reliance is delusional. No one is self-made. No man is an island. So please don’t feel bad if you’ve tried to be one and failed.

Hey! Look what I wrote!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

2 thoughts on “Bootstrapping Over Time”

  1. I find it hard to reconcile the idea that America is based on individualism with 1) the conformity shoved down our throats from infancy, 2) the doublespeak inherent in how one is supposed to pull one’s weight all the time, yet not to expect the rewards, by which I mean that individual rights are not often forthcoming. This early in the morn, it’s hard to express this clearly, other than to say that the vaunted freedom we have is actually rather scant. Both practically (poverty, discrimination, lack of leisure etc.) and theoretically (social prejudices about everything from hair length to such personal qualities as introversion.) Home of the free, my –. Now the anti-mask people are making it even more a travesty.
    Bootstraps, in short, means “I don’t want to have to admit that there’s anything wrong here, because it might mean some of it might be my fault and I could lose my advantages, not to mention actually having to think for a change.”
    As for the jumpsuits the other day, I don’t think the makers want to forbid anyone from altering the design from a pattern or making your own in bright colors; I think they are more interested in convenience and simplicity, which could give you more freedom to pick out accessories and so on. But the bathroom issue does need addressing.

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