An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Never being one to shy away from social commentary, I really must do a bit of it now after falling upon this story in the local paper. Now, I really do hate to have to be specific here, but alas the journalist was specific in identifying this man and calling him a victim…and the fact is, no matter how unfortunate, he is decidedly NOT a victim. I see demonstrated here a problem of epidemic proportions.
We are generally a people with a deep-seated sense of self-dependency and personal responsibility and this has been a great part of American social paradosis. However, in the last couple of generations we have become a people indoctrinated to start adding contradictory clauses to expressions of what used to be known as common sense: “I am responsible for my own decisions, but…”
Now, I’ve no wish to judge this poor man in his misfortune, but if he and the reporter are trying to make the case that his situation was unavoidable and that he is worthy of having the label of victim, I am simply going to have to disagree. As an illustration of how badly we need “hope and change”, this is the sob story we are given? Not someone working part-time at WalMart and lacking health insurance while battling cancer and THEN going into foreclosure?
And this raises MANY questions in my mind, but here are a couple prominent ones:
1. Why have Americans lost track of how to understand basic economics? (how has our appetite for stuff trumped our good sense and sent many of us spirally into high interest debt)? 2. Why do we seem to want to blame big bad banks and politicians, instead of ourselves and our passions that push us to buy buy buy…at any cost?
To begin with, I very much believe that we are pushing kids out into a world that has gone mad with materialism and we have not done a good enough job in teaching them to appreciate what they have and to easily discern the difference between need and wants. Our grandparents (sometimes called “The Greatest Generation”) grew up in the age of the depression and learned many hard lessons for which most were prepared to deal with. All should have opportunity to spend sometime talking to them and see just how much they did without to make it through those tough times. Our generation, however, is the entitlement generation and as I have seen in recent news articles we are largely ill prepared to lose our 500 channel cable TV subscription, let alone real staples. Put simply: we are economic pansies. Our passions have been so overfed that we have grown economically obese and are wholly unable to discern what it really means to tighten our belts and so rather than doing so, we spend and spend as banks willingly (and stupidly it seems now) loan us money that should neither have ever been given nor received.
But, who will stand up and dare say that we have no inalienable right to our iPhones? Or our brand new Hybrids? Or our Plasma TV’s? Or our High Speed Internet? Or our McMansion? Or our six trillion channel satellite TV? Or our almost new Dodge Ram 4x4? Oddly enough, we are ONLY guaranteed (governmentally speaking) the inalienable right to pursue happiness...a stark contrast to being provided happiness. And I will not even attempt to get into the other misaligned sense we have of material goods making us truly happy.
So, besides evolving into economic pansies we have also grown to believe specifically that the government is more responsible for our well being than we ourselves are. Now sometimes it takes a serious catastrophe for this belief to manifest itself, but it is always there to be tickled by politicians who know that deep down we want the feds to solve our problems.
For instance, try and explain to someone that the police cannot always protect them...NOR are they obliged to. I can still recall the shock people felt and expressed when, during the LA riots, the police retreated and people were suddenly and truly "on their own." I don’t know what became of the lawsuits that surely followed, but I do know that there is no law that guarantees that the police will protect you. Ask any officer of the law and he or she will tell you that vast majority of the time they arrive at a crime scene as opposed to one still in progress. The point is, we have an innate sense of the government’s responsibility, but it is in direct conflict with both reality and the old innate sense our grandparents wisely used to hold.
In the end, it is always easier to blame someone else than to blame ourselves...I see this everyday in the lab where serious mistakes can take place and people's lives (their diagnosis and subsequent treatment) relies on people NOT making errors in judgment. I've seen major errors take place and how stringently people will fight against and avoid the obvious fact that it was their fault. In the same way, when a major crisis befalls us, we, in no way, want to own up to the fact that we should have taken a better course of action and used better judgment. So much nicer to be a victim...an inanimate object blown by the forces of government and big business. I had no choice but to accept a bad loan. In such cases, we generally avoid giving too much thought to it all, for fear of realizing uncomfortable things.
Hurricane Katrina was another big example. As awful as it was and as inept the government's response: how many people laid the blame at W's feet? Why not the governor of Louisiana? Why not the mayor of New Orleans? Better yet, why not the individuals who did not prepare, did not evacuate? Did not anticipate and plan for the worse? The fathers and mothers who did not do all they could to protect their own family? Don't get me wrong here, I understand there were many people who were truly victims in Katrina - folks who really were unable to help themselves, but I think it is also totally fair to say that precious few were victims of the Federal Government and that those same could have done far more to prevent themselves from being victims of anything - including nature. This may seem cold and harsh, but so the heck what? I really think America - including myself - needs a serious dose of tough love when articles like the one that started this post can show up in the papers thus demonstrating that we are at least sensitive to the notion of this person being a victim! Clearly we steer further in this direction.
While this commercial was originally intended to demonstrate how lazy we Americans have become, I think it also speaks to us on many other levels as well. We treat ourselves as hapless victims of all the takes place around us. And while we can demonize real obesity and laziness...we will not touch our entitlement obesity and our hunger for the government nannying us. Our laziness overall.
Frankly our ancestors would laugh us to scorn to see us in this pitiable state. They would see us just as we see these people in the video. We are like jello, they were like ROCKS. We are like soiling ourselves infants, they were like MEN...stout hearted men! And do we ever need to seriously MAN UP these days...(sing it for us Nelson!)
So maybe we should forget this bail out and LET IT ALL CRASH! Let's face the hurricane like men and deal with it. Let's band up together (PRIVATELY) and weather the storm like stout hearted men. And maybe, just maybe we will come to learn what a lie we have been living in this fantasy of entitlement and government nanny care.
In my mind I picture the farmer looking at his field demolished by a 20 minute hailstorm. He's potentially ruined...a year's income lost. Who does he blame? Who does he lament to? Does he shake his fist at God and beg the government to save him? (Perhaps nowadays he can)...but in the old days he was either prepared for such an event or not. If not, he salvaged what he could, sold the mess as hog feed and prepared his family for a long tough winter. And while he could usually rely on the help of his neighbors, he never expected and felt entitled to it. Either way he got back up on his tractor or hitched up his team and went back to work like a man. Not a bowl of quivering jello pleading for help as an entitled victim. You die doing that and it is a most unattractive trait.
Two things I want to emphasize here in all this rambling: In what ways can I "man up" for the potential storm? And in what ways can I teach my kids to be always be ready to "man up"?
Some friends of ours are really into scouting and I must say that traditional organizations such as these that teach what are arguably traditional American values (which have sadly and not surprisingly fallen out of vogue as of late), may be one of our last great hopes in raising a generation of children who will strive to personally "Be Prepared" instead of expecting others to be so for them.