The Nameless Horror

What starts the process, really, are the laughs, slights and snubs when you are a kid. Sometimes it’s because you are poor, or Irish or Jewish or Catholic or ugly or simply that you are skinny. But if you are reasonably intelligent and if your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn you can change those attitudes by excellence, personal gut performance, while those who have anything are sitting on their fat butts.

Once you learn that you’ve got to work harder than anybody else, it becomes a way of life as you move out of the alley and on your way. In your own mind you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances, and if you do your homework many of them pay off. It is then you understand, for the first time, that you really have the advantage because your competitors can’t risk what they have already. It’s a piece of cake until you get to the top. You find you can’t stop playing the game the way you’ve always played it because it is a part of you and you need it as much as an arm and a leg.

So you are lean and mean and resourceful, and you continue to walk on the edge of the precipice because over the years you have become fascinated by how close to the edge you can walk without losing your balance.

Richard Nixon speaking to his former communications director Kenneth Clawson. I’ve always loved that quote. (The final line of it, summing up what went wrong, is: “This time there was a difference. This time we had something to lose.”)