Locus of control

Thought trigger: Tejas Harad’s post

I have always had a strong “internal” locus of control that means I strongly believe that what I get in life, is because of my actions. If you have a strong “external” locus of control, you believe that other’s action affect you on a much larger scale than your own actions; so if you fail, you would blame fate, or a person, or the system or God, or whatever.

Since I have a strong internal locus of control, my failures are my fault alone and my success is also only mine. So basically, I am what Tejas calls a person with a “stinking sense of entitlement”.

Because of this post, I reflected on my own locus of control and recognized that it not only affected my rationalizations about myself, but also my world-view and my political views etc. And maybe, I never explicitly think of people under poverty as people who “could just work harder and not be poor” but I have to confess that I did agree with motivational crap like “if you are born poor, it is not your fault; but if you die poor, it is.” I am really embarrassed of this stupidity on my part.

Lately, I have come across terms like “social capital” (the network of people your family, your parents or you know and have access to), “cultural capital” (marked by your level of education, your style of speech/appearance, your access to good art) and I recognize my own privilege. I recognize that the world is not a level-playing ground. I am a third-generation English speaker in my family, and I have taught English to six-year olds who are their family’s first. This disparity, which for the most of my childhood I had completely blocked out, is so vivid since my teaching stint.

I guess, Barack Obama was right about misunderstood teenagers being impressed with Ayn Rand (cue: blast from the past). I realize that Ayn Rand appealed to me because of her strong inner locus of control.

However, her idea of what a “self-made man” looked like was completely different from what they really look like in real life. I am so lucky to have already met friends who are unimaginably self-made, and they weren’t anything like Fountainhead’s Howard Roark and Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt. They (my friends) are not heroes that isolate themselves from the world, and are not proud to be “above average” (inside joke). They are not people who don’t have an internal locus of control, and they are not unsympathetic to human shortcomings. They are not blind to systematic oppression based on gender, race, caste, sexual orientation etc.

I completely understand the frustration that Tejas displays in his post at people who are blind to their privilege:

“As if people operate in isolation. As if external factors don’t matter at all. As if capitalism is such a fair system that it rewards people commensurate to their hardwork/ talents/ skills. This false notion which is passed on from one generation to the next and accepted as commonsense by everybody, is insidious. It makes any critique of our unjust system impossible. It pits one person in competition with the other. And it is completely devoid of empathy.”

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4 thoughts on “Locus of control

  1. Locus of control. A new idea for me, but one I can immediately grasp. I have one of those too!

    I don’t buy into that blog post you link to though. He’s right that those less fortunate need to be helped. That’s what Ayn Rand didn’t get. He’s right also that the world is unfair in many ways, but don’t blame that on capitalism. Capitalism is merely the freedom to act and make our own economic choices. Capitalism is the force that has lifted billions out of poverty. The guy says, “This earth has enough food, water and clothes for 7 billion of us.” Yeah, really? Where do those clothes come from? People manufacture them. Others buy them. That’s capitalism at work.

    Looking forward to more of your rants.

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    1. I am also disillusioned by capitalism. I have realized that capitalists are more powerful than politicians. Corporate workplaces are unhappy, disconnected places to work at, many are underpaid for the number of hours they “eventually” end up working and HR plays to the top management and not for the employees. Also, the CSR work that corporates end up doing are superficial and not ongoing. Capitalism also promotes this nonsensical consumerist culture, which annoys me no end. The Ayn Rand optimism about entrepreneurs doing the right thing is irrational because vested interests and lobbyists control the result in favor of more money, not public good. You can talk about a few good companies here and there, but how many people are working in such companies at the end of the day.

      Not to say, I have begun advocating socialism, but I am drawn to a welfare state (like in Norway). I haven’t read much about it yet, but pure capitalism doesn’t seem hopeful to me anymore

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      1. I think that a welfare system to protect those who cannot work, or who have lost their jobs or retired is an essential part of any economic system. The system in Norway is a chimera, because the Norwegian government receives absolutely enormous revenues from oil (at least it did before the price of oil crashed), but the systems that we have in Europe work well enough.

        Without a successful economy creating jobs and wealth, there isn’t any money for welfare.

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