The times when you grow up shape you. I am a product of the post-Watergate era. Back then the world seemed to be descending into chaos. Every issue, whether it was civil rights, abortion, or law and order seemed to polarize and divide the country.
During that period politics played a vital role in my community as well as my family. However, I never cared about politics; I just wanted to be a kid. I didn’t know that women’s rights and civil rights would affect the nation and impact my family. I didn’t think being a mom was degrading and oppressive. However, some of my mom’s feminist friends did. Because my mom was trying to liberate herself, my parents argued endlessly and the women’s movement was destroying our family.
My parents were a product of the ‘60s. They weren’t activists, but they believed in the civil rights movement. I had an upfront seat to my parents’ activities. They marched, sat on committees, and campaigned tirelessly for liberal politicians. From the beginning, I felt out of place with my family’s political views. I hated big government, taxation, affirmative action, and multiculturalism. I didn’t want to be known as a black man or an African. I wanted to be an American.
I didn’t think I was conservative. I just thought I was selfish, egotistical, and arrogant. I trusted my God-given ability more than authority.
This didn’t stop my parents from trying to indoctrinate me with the ideas of fairness, tolerance, and justice. However, when you have a free spirit there is nothing you can’t do. So, I did what I wanted because that’s what I believed
I didn’t believe in the concept of fairness. I was driven by greed. My dad busted his ass all his life, and what did it get him? It was the ‘80s, when greed was good, and I was going to be one greedy bastard. It may have been by chance or by fate but I was on a collision course with capitalism.
Tired of my parents being broke, I decided to look for a job. My first job was at 15, washing dishes for The Ponderosa Steak House. I was paid a minimum wage and my first check was $100. Alongside me were two kids who seemed very enterprising. They apparently had access to everything: girls, money, cars, etc. Curious, I asked how they were making all that money while I was killing myself washing dishes. They said they made their money playing poker.
Noticing I hated working for a minimum wage, they invited me to play with them. At first I was scared; I didn’t want to lose all the money I had worked hard for. However, I didn’t want to wash dishes anymore.
Motivated by avarice, I decided to do something about my poverty. I didn’t want the equal share; I wanted the whole pie. Public assistance is not fun when you see two 17-year olds driving fast cars and going to the best clubs and parties. I didn’t want to rob or kill someone. But I wanted the riches. I was a material man.
The first time I played poker I went broke. Eventually, I learned the game and was making three times the money I was making working minimum wage at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Although I sucked at math in high school, I learned math, physics, odds, and probabilities playing poker. I became an amateur economist. While some read Adam Smith and Karl Marx, I learned you can get more knowledge from reading someone holding a pair of aces than you can ever get reading an economics book.
I learned more than a game through poker. I learned what a perfect society should be. I learned that for a short time you will have a run of good cards and bad cards. But over the long run everything will even out.
I also learned successful people maximize their wins during good periods and minimize their losses during bad periods. The winner doesn’t wait around protesting and marching, hoping something will happen. I learned that those who win don’t wait for fortunes to come; they control their fate.
Although I loved my parents, I am sad they couldn’t get out of that civil rights mindset and embrace free enterprise. Capitalism has many flaws. But it still provides the best opportunities for the poor to escape poverty.