Douglas Murray Clarifies the Idea of Being "Lucky"

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Douglas Murray

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Douglas Murray is a political commentator, journalist, and author of numerous books, the most recent of which is "The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason."

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You must get this a lot. People say things like, I know, well, I do this in a kind of self-deprecating way. I often say, well, I've been lucky in this, that and the other. And you know very well that a lot of life is luck, for sure. Some of life is luck. A lot. Being in the right place at the right time. Just being able, just being able-bodied. But then a lot of it is, and it's underplayed, is you also work hard. Yes. And I realized some time ago that I use, because I'm born in Britain, I have that natural tendency to underplay something. Well, I'm just lucky in that. And somebody said to me, you shouldn't do that. You do work very hard. And I thought, yes, but saying what I've been lucky in that is a nice way to say to other people, oh, I haven't really had any input, and you don't need to particularly. It's a flattering thing to say to somebody else, which ignores what something, actually, I quote at the end of the book, a wonderful phrase of Branch Rickey I came across. He said, luck is the residue of design. Luck is the residue of design. A lot of what we call luck has come about through something other than chance. So I used to say, you're lucky to be born in America. And on one level, that's true, which is you could have been born in the great pool, things you could have been born in Mogadishu, and it would be a lot worse. But there's also something that covers up, which is the luck is that people before you made good choices that meant that you are in a situation which is more optimal. And it's not simply luck that you have in America the right to freedom of speech. That's not simply luck. It's luck in that you were born here as opposed to Mogadishu. But it's not luck that America ended up with that situation. It is the residue of design. It's the consequence of men and women making good decisions, prudent decisions, like not being crazily short-termist, setting up a state well. There's a great description in a novel by Hilary Mantel about the French Revolution and the first days of the meeting of the parliament after they've killed the king. And she says they wanted to talk about rights. And she says, I'm paraphrasing, she says something like, this was the day to talk about laws, that rights were more attractive to talk about. So they put off the discussion of laws for another day. And that's how you get what you got in the terror and everything else. And this is the thing is that we have to find a better way to understand what we often mean by luck. You have luck in your life sometimes because other people have made good judgments that are effectively for you before your time. Your politicians, your family and others. It's not just some wild whirligig. It's also make prudent decisions, make wise decisions, work hard and a lot more. And you'll find that you are what we call lucky or luckier. Don't do any of that stuff. Put everything off all the time. Be lazy. Be unmotivated. Blame other people all the time for things that you think you could correct yourself. And you will find you are the type of person that is described as unlucky. And it's the same with countries. There are countries we describe as unlucky, like Venezuela. They weren't just unlucky. They had the people, the fucking unluckiest people in the world at the moment practically. But it became what we would call an unlucky country because politicians made catastrophic decisions. They have the same energy sources, same energy resources as Norway. It's better to be in Norway than in Venezuela. And there's a reason, which is that people made better decisions. And we are very unwilling to identify what those decisions are and what it is that leads to a good outcome or a bad outcome. Which is really strange because American exceptionalism was always predicated on the idea that you work hard and you can make something in this country. It was a big part of the motto of what it meant to be an American.