It’s the urban legend that just won’t die; the self-made man.
The legend has it that there will come a man, from humble beginnings and he will make himself in his own image, forging his own paths, without help from anyone. He is the epitomy of success, for he made it alone. *cough* Bullshit! *cough* Unless they grew up and made their fortune alone on a desert island, the myth doesn’t hold water. Invariably the term seems to be used by people who were born to privilege. Jeb Bush used it on a campaign trail, talking about how having not one but two presidents of the United States in his immediate family had effected him not one bit, no sir, he is a self-made man. And the same happens in Finland, although here the term is used pretty rarely. But whenever I see someone using it, they are always people with an upper middle class background at the very least.
John Scalzi is someone who could be said to be as close to fulfilling the legend of the self-made man as anyone can come. And well, here’s what he wrote about the matter. My own list looks very similar except instead of a scholarship, I get to thank Finnish tax payers who, for decades now, have been in the business of ensuring that everyone gets a free education as far along as their abilities carry them.
But let’s say that we’re talking about someone who was born and raised themselves literally on the streets, found a discarded book somewhere, used that to teach themselves to read and even to understand mathematics or programming or whatever. There were still people who participated in that life. The people who made the book and the streets and other people who payed for both.
And that’s kind of the point; no man is an island. Don’t get me wrong. I think hard work is totally important. It’s just that it’s not the only thing. You need help from other people. There will always be people willing to take a chance to help out the plucky, hard-working youngster. Especially if they ever get given the chance.