Two weeks ago, Joe Stack, a 53-year-old software engineer, posted his suicide note in the early morning, lit his home on fire and left to fly his airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Why did he do it? Beyond the faith that we put in government control of our money, the answer to this question reflects the poor choice of putting money before all other things in life.
Why is it a bad choice to trust our government with our financial future? Stack’s suicide note reveals that he ultimately felt like the world’s biggest sucker for believing his government to be a fair system, one that not only guaranteed political and financial freedom, but also rewarded hard work. In his note, he named his dilemma ‘the real American nightmare,” adding, ‘It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie.”
Last week, CNN’s Lisa Sylvester interviewed a man named Paul Dubosz who worked over 35 years in the auto parts industry. When his company went bankrupt, he discovered his pension, taken over by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, had been reduced by over 30 percent. He said, ‘I felt betrayed … mostly because I put 37 years in with the company: following the rules, doing everything I should, and then … I found out that for the rest of my life things would be changed.” It is only natural that feelings of gullibility, betrayal and devastation arise when two-thirds of your life is spent working tirelessly for an elusive goal.
Stack is an extreme example, but he represents the typical thinking of our parents. The traditional American dream is that if you work hard enough, you can go from rags to riches. This was the dream of our parents, but they added, ‘Retire and enjoy the last 15 to 20 years of your life.” Our generation would be nave if we believed our government would be holding financial security for us in the future. Our nation today stands as the following: pensions are a thing of the past, stay-at-home wives are a rarity and Generations X and Y will be lucky if Social Security is still around when they retire. And if it is, it will not be enough to sustain them they will need much more than a 401K plan to pay their bills when they retire.
Some people argue it is important to have faith in our government so that there isn’t anarchy. While it is foolish to trust in our current government given its past record, we don’t need to resort to anarchy for a new system just a wave of new mentality.
Our generation should observe Stack’s essential flaw: He idolized money. His money was the ultimate marker of life’s success. Stack’s suicide note makes it apparent that he based his entire life on what money the government did or didn’t give him. When the government took his idol, he lost his mind and took his life, along with the life of IRS employee Vernon Hunter. Stack is a warning that when we centralize our life on money, we become undone. Nothing in this world is worth killing someone for.
Stack has taught us two things: Our generation cannot depend on the government for our money, and we cannot rely on money for our happiness. Just as we will need to base our retirement on several different sources, we should base our happiness on several different sources as well. Do not put your eggs in one basket, especially the wrong one.
Just as our politicians have separated church and state, our generation must separate our lives from the constraints posed by money and state. We cannot allow the government to rule our lives and drive us to such desperation that we commit violence. Joe Stack is what happens when the pillar of your life is wrong.
We can never feel safe. Look at Haiti and Chile my friend’s family was in Haiti, and my entire family is in Chile. Our generation knows what happens when you base your life on things that in reality aren’t important. So what is important? Your family, your loved ones. If you lose your job, your money, your home, what will you have left? What is truly yours?
In the end, money is only worth having if you have a family or loved one to spend it with.
Duarte graduated in 2009.