Good afternoon, children. I’d like to tell you all a little parable.
Once upon a time, there was an old lady. When she was young and pretty, she fell in love with a very rich man. This man wasn’t old, but he wasn’t young, and his old wife had divorced him some years prior. She was dazzled by how powerful and charismatic he was, and they got married and decided they didn’t want any kids, and they grew old together.
After being married for 15 years, the old lady - though she wasn’t old yet - had to take care of her nephew for a little while, and she decided that she wanted to have a baby after all. And so, even though she wasn’t young anymore, and her husband was positively ancient, they went to every doctor in the world and took every treatment and finally had a baby boy. And this boy grew up being cold and proud and angry, and because he mostly kept to himself, he had all kinds of handy little skills. He also was generally able-bodied, in an average sort of way, so he was very useful around the house now that his parents were both getting pretty old and weren’t taking good care of themselves. And the old lady was very glad of her son, because her husband was a very powerful and important man and so he took very good care of his wife, and so she never had to learn how to do anything.
And one day, once the old lady’s son was all grown up and off to school, her husband died in a tragic yet hilarious way, and the old lady was all alone. And then all of her husband’s other children came circling around, trying to get money from her, because they were all idiots and the product of unchallenging and idle upbringings and they all had ex-spouses that they had to pay alimony. And so the old lady, who by now was very, very frail, was very worried, and she tried very hard to take care of herself but couldn’t do it, and she spent a little time in the hospital from how frail she was, and her son had to come home and take care of her.
Now, this old lady had a car. When it was a new car, it was very nice - it was a pretty shade of racing green, and it had been very expensive when her husband bought it for her. But cars, like people, get old and tired and eventually they pass away, and this car couldn’t have been far from passing away itself. The old lady loved her car very much, but she was very busy - she was always meeting with lawyers and accountants and doctors, and she was always driving it back and forth.
And one day, her son - who was still cold and proud and angry, and longed for his old life of adventure (even though he wasn’t very good at it and had gotten in a bit of trouble) - her son said, ‘mamma, your car looks pretty sick. Its engine light is always on, and it’s dropped out of ignition while you were driving it two or three times, and then one time black smoke came out of the engine, a lot of it. Maybe you should take it to the mechanic?’
But the old lady threw up her hands, and she said ‘I can’t take it to the mechanic! I couldn’t go an entire afternoon without my car, I’m always so busy! Tomorrow I have to see the accountant, and then the next day I have to see the lawyer, and then next day I have to see them both together! And it costs a lot of money to get a car repaired! I’m sure that it’ll be fine.’
And her son said, ‘mamma, I can drive you around while the car’s in the shop; you know I have a good car and I’m a good driver.’ (And he was a decent driver, at least; he used to go on long car trips by himself.) But the old lady threw up her hands, and she said, ‘I can’t have you do that! You’d have to sit outside while I was in meetings, and I’d feel terrible to have you spend so much time doing things for me.’
And then her son said, ‘mamma, I can take your car to the shop, and then you could drive my car whenever you liked; you’ve driven it once or twice and you know it’s a very good car.’ (And it was a decent car, at least; it was only four years old and he had taken good care of it.) But the old lady threw up her hands, and she said, ‘Why are you pressuring me so much about this? I like my car, it was a present from your father! Now, leave me alone about this, okay?’
And she took his hand, and she squeezed it, and her son knew, in his heart of hearts, that whenever she spoke that dreaded word ‘father,’ she had entered into a place where her actions were dictated by sentimentality, and there was no point in speaking about it any further. Her son had decided, many years ago, that it was important to his sense of self-worth that he never be sentimental about anything, and so her son left her to her own private country and retreated to a place where he could be cold and proud and angry by himself.
And then, one day, when she was driving from the office of one lawyer to the office of another, her car de-ignited itself while she was driving, and would not start again, and vile black smoke surged out of her engine, and then something caught on fire but soon put itself out. And the old lady picked up her telephone (she had two, but neither one worked, and she was always too busy to buy a new one) and she called her son, and said, ‘son, my car broke down again, please come pick me up.’ And then she called the tow truck people, and she paid them lots of money, and they came and towed away her car.
And as the old lady’s son was driving her home, he closed his teeth tight around his tongue, because even though her time had been wasted, and his time had been wasted, and she would lose much more than the afternoon she was so afraid of losing, and even though her son had foresaw all of this and had told her as much some time before, he was still cold and proud and angry - and proud, most of all - and he would never stoop so low as to tell her something like,
‘I told you so.’
And so, he closed his teeth tight around his tongue, and here was one more thing to make him colder, prouder, and ever more angry.
TLDR: The worst sort of the learnedly helpless are those who attempt to justify it.