The Powerbait Generation(s)

Most of us have now been subjected to the many disheartening photos of the Occupy [fill in the city] protesters' signs that claim things along the lines of "capitalism doesn't work" -- "the rich need to give me their money because they have more than I do" -- "pay off my student loans" -- and in some extreme cases, "string up those greedy rich folks." 

These "oppressed" protesters, clinging to their lattes, laptops, and iPhones, have benefited greatly from the overflowing prosperity provided by the free-market capitalist system that they're currently trying to tear apart.  Unfortunately, they haven't been taught any of the real-world skills necessary to benefit within that system.  They're not interested in using their equal opportunity to create prosperity for themselves; they're looking for a 99% guarantee of prosperity -- but provided by others.

We've all heard the proverb: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  But what will happen to this potential fisherman when the government-controlled education system that claims to be teaching him how to fish instead is really just giving him a special type of bait that virtually guarantees (at least during good times) that he'll catch some fish?  And he'll be able to catch those fish without having to possess any of the typical skills necessary to become a true fisherman.  To make matters even worse, what if the teacher then drills into his mind that he is now a "fisherman" and entitled to catch all the fish he wants?

If after all of that "education" he is still unsuccessful in producing any fish, what if  he is told that his lack of skills are not to blame, and that the fault really lies at the feet of the greedy expert fly-fisherman -- the 1%?  At that point, his teacher would then argue that the government should step in and take half of the fly-fisherman's catch and redistribute it to the underprivileged "fisherman."

I received my first fishing pole while camping on my fifth birthday, and I was more than eager to learn the secrets of catching fish with it.  My father pointed me in the correct direction (and patiently untangled many hooks from trees), but I soon found that I had much to learn, and there ended up being no fish on the stringer for me during that trip.  And it wasn't for a lack of opportunity, as others around me were "cashing in" with their limits.  It didn't seem fair at the time.

It took years and years of practice and countless empty stringers to hone my skills as a fisherman, so whenever I did happen to catch a fish, it was both hard-earned and appreciated.  Fortunately, in time, I did become a fairly skilled fisherman.

My first fly rod was given to me by my grandparents on my twelfth birthday.  I could hardly wait to start slaying tons of fish with it.  I soon found myself humbled, though, as its use presented a whole new set of challenges and frustrations that still, more than thirty years later, continue to plague me.  For years I would bring my spinning-rod along with my fly-rod so I would at least have somewhat of a chance to see some action.  Eventually, though, I did become fairly proficient at fly-fishing and was able to leave the spinning rod at home.

When Berkley Powerbait entered the scene, the world of trout fishing changed forever.  Powerbait is an engineered dough-like bait that floats off the bottom.  It's also about the closest thing to a guarantee of catching fish that I've ever seen, and it takes very little skill to successfully use it.  As a "purist" fisherman, there was absolutely no way that I would be caught dead using it -- ever.  That is, until I had children of my own.

I must admit that when the time came to start teaching my own children how to fish, I did "cheat" a little and teach them using Powerbait.  The stuff really does work.  But instead of giving my kids the tools that they needed (which come with the realities of frustration and failure) to become fishermen, I took the easy road and gave them as close to a guaranteed positive outcome as was possible.  I was so focused on making sure my kids had fun and caught fish that I had lost sight of what was truly important -- passing on the lessons of fishing to my children so they could one day themselves become fishermen.

Once our kids venture out into the real world, they'll discover that Powerbait ends with fishing and does not exist to produce guaranteed jobs, guaranteed homes, guaranteed health care, guaranteed iPads, or guaranteed anything else, for that matter.  They must use whatever skills they've acquired to earn all of those things. 

If we're lucky enough to maintain our freedoms in this nation, one of the few things that will be guaranteed is the freedom of opportunity.  This is why we need to prepare our children with the tools that give them the best chance to "earn" those fish and everything else that they need or desire.

The last thing that I want is to turn on the TV one afternoon and see one of my children dressed up like a zombie while holding up some poorly designed sign that says "fishing doesn't work" -- "pay for my fishing pole" -- "it's not fair that the better fishermen have more fish than I do" -- or "string up all of those greedy fly-fishermen."

The OWS crowd seems to think that the world should work just like Powerbait does.  But the world doesn't work that way, and thanks to the things that they've been "taught," they haven't the slightest idea of how to function without the stuff.

Scott blogs at